There’s a big difference between the concept of a rivalry game and a rival. Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer made that very clear while speaking at Big Ten media days in Chicago this week.
The Buckeyes play in a number of rivalry games. When Ohio State takes the field against Penn State or Illinois, they’re engaging in a rivalry game.
But the Buckeyes only have one true rival—a distinction reserved for That Team Up North.
That Team Up North, of course, is Michigan. The Wolverines are so respected that they command Ohio State’s singular attention, but they’re so hated that those in the Buckeyes’ camp refuse to utter the word “Michigan.”
It’s That Team Up North. In Ann Arbor, Ohio State is simply referred to as Ohio.
That rivalry, rooted in a century’s worth of animosity, makes it hard for anyone else to register on the Buckeyes’ radar.
“You’ve got to be clear, though, there’s one rival and that will never change,” Meyer said of Michigan, according to David Briggs of The Toledo Blade.
“It will always be The Team Up North,” defensive tackle Michael Bennett added, via Briggs. “No matter what happens.”
That may be the case, but Michigan State is making a lot of noise.
That noise started last December in the Big Ten Championship Game. The Buckeyes were one win away from playing Florida State for the national title, but the Spartans dashed those hopes with a 34-24 upset.
Continue Reading: Michigan Is Ohio State’s Only Rival, but Michigan State Can’t Be Ignored