I wrote this a few years back but like to re-post it during Michigan-Ohio St. week.
Originally posted November 2012
OLD SCHOOL MATCHUPS
BTN commentator Gerry DiNardo has been continually suggesting that the Ohio St-Michigan game be moved to earlier in the season, like say, the second week. I say No,no,no,no…….No. I won’t go into his reasoning, but I will go into mine. And I’m not too proud to say that my reasoning is laced with selfishness. As you can tell by the introduction to my posts, I obviously love football. I used to play the game but now I’m too old. Ah, it was great being young, strong and carefree. Watching football takes me back to those days, the days of my youth. As much as I love watching the games today, there’s no replacing the mystique, magnificence, and wonderment of watching football as a young boy. I’ve since lost interest in the pro game. The money has changed things too much. But to me, the Ohio St-Michigan game is as traditional as Thanksgiving. I’ve watched that game every year since I was twelve years old when both teams went into the game undefeated. The scholarship limits were a lot less stringent those days so both teams had players on the bench that could have started for teams like Illinois or Wisconsin. The Big Ten conference was referred to as “the big two-little eight”. The games prior to the showdown were just an exercise in focus. The other teams were just little landmines that could explode and beat one of the “big two” if they lost their concentration while waiting for the season finale. The OSU-Michigan game was part of a wonderful week in college football. For many years the last week or so in November was the crescendo that all fans waited for. And it wasn’t just the Big Ten. This scenario played out all across the country as all of the major conferences had a “big two”. And they all squared off during this glorious time frame between the Saturday before Thanksgiving and the beginning of December. One if not both teams involved were playing for the conference title and possibly a national championship. Man, that was a great week. Conference realignment and parity has changed most of that. I suppose today’s youth will look back to conference championship games when they grow up. But for me, it’s the Ohio St-Michigan game that takes me back to those golden “November showdown” weeks of my youth. Time distorts memory and some of the game days would change from year to year depending on when Thanksgiving fell, but the visions that I conjure up look like this.
I can smell the burning leaves outside…….
Ohio St-Michigan– I don’t remember the start times for games back then but this was always the first game on Saturday. Usually the Saturday before Thanksgiving.
Grey skies….Woody and Bo….the helmets….three yards and a cloud of, well, not dust. Both stadiums had astro turf in those days. Not much scoring and the game was close. Always for the conference title. Usually one was thinking national.
USC-UCLA– Usually the game following Ohio St-Michigan. Stark contrast to the previous game….wide open offense….natural turf….both teams wearing their home colors…. maroon clashing with powder blue illuminated as the stadium lights came on midway through the game. The Pac-8 title was often on the line, but I don’t recall UCLA ever having national title hopes. USC almost always did.
Texas-Texas A&M – Thanksgiving night. Stuffed….family gathered around….usually not able to give the game full attention with the holiday going on. Still a great sideshow. Southwest Conference title on the line, sometimes more.
Pitt-Penn St– Many times the early game on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Joe Pa and the Beast from the East….turkey sandwich….could see the breath coming out of the players on a cold morning/afternoon. Both teams were independent. Usually one was thinking national championship.
Nebraska-Oklahoma– The day changed from year to year. The big one in ’71 was on Thanksgiving Day. My memory takes me to the Friday after Thanksgiving. Switzer and Osborne….option football….sunny but cold….speedy running backs….quarterbacks that could run, but pass? Who knows? They never threw. Big 8 title for sure. Many times national hopes for the winner.
Alabama-Auburn– Played on Saturday, one week after the dust had settled in the aforementioned games. The Bear and the Crimson Tide….Alabama will win- if they don’t it’s an upset. Not always for the SEC title, but Alabama was usually in the national picture.
Look at what conference realignment has done to my games. Half of them are gone. Now DiNardo wants to tamper with the best one left.