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Is the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry becoming too intense? Why Jim Harbaugh might be onto something

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Last Michigan-Ohio State Game as We Know It? – The Athletic

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – With a pang of nostalgia, traditionalists have noted this year’s Michigan-Ohio State game might have been the last of its kind.

Stretching back to the 1970s, no rivalry in college football has been played with more at stake. This game determines legacies, alters coaching careers and, more often than not, decides the Big Ten race. This season, the stars aligned for one of the biggest Michigan–Ohio State games ever played, a 30-24 Michigan victory that put the Wolverines on track for a third consecutive trip to the College Football Playoff and left Ohio State on the outside looking in.

With the Big Ten scrapping its divisions and expanding to 18 teams next season, a Michigan-Ohio State rematch in the conference championship game could become a reality. The new 12-team College Football Playoff will have room for both teams, making the regular-season matchup less decisive. In that new world, it’s hard to imagine a Michigan-Ohio State game mattering as much as this one did.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh was asked Monday about the furor surrounding the rivalry and said, in essence, he thinks it’s gotten out of hand. The problem isn’t the rivalry itself, Harbaugh said, but everything around it: the hype, the vitriol, the media attention and the unending pressure.

This year’s game was particularly fraught, in no small part because Harbaugh had to watch it at home on his couch. A buildup of hostilities between the two programs, magnified by a relentless media spotlight, came to a head when Harbaugh was suspended three games by the Big Ten for Michigan’s scouting and sign-stealing scandal.

There’s no need to rehash the drama that surrounded both programs leading up to the game. Anybody who spent a few minutes reading the message boards or the comment sections should be aware. This season was a perfect storm of ridiculously high stakes, incendiary storylines and moral indignation on both sides. It’s hard to tell fans to keep the game in perspective when the daily existence of each program revolves around beating the other.

Michigan and Ohio State battle each other 365 days a year and aren’t afraid to admit it. When a rivalry is that all-consuming, anything that happens at either school becomes fodder for the feud. The mutual obsession leaves little room for de-escalation, only constant gamesmanship. A Michigan-Ohio State Game as We Know It?


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