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Optimism? Dread? 7 emotions Michigan football fans are feeling ahead of Ohio State game

Buildup for The Game makes for long, emotional week

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh. (Getty Images)
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh. (Getty Images)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The Michigan vs. Ohio State game is one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports, but the buildup can make for a really long week.

Even though this is a shortened week for many because of the holiday, the looming Michigan-Ohio State match-up makes it feel like the days are dragging on. The Game is always in the back of everyone’s mind, even during Thanksgiving celebrations.

Seven days is more than enough time to tour the spectrum of emotions, and that’s exactly what’s happening for Michigan supporters as the minutes slowly tick down to kickoff.


This was in short supply early this year, but now it’s hard to blame anyone feeling like Michigan actually has a chance against the No. 1 team in the country.

Shea Patterson is playing like one of the top quarterbacks in the Big Ten. The defense is back to putting up elite numbers while becoming more versatile. There’s more speed on both sides of the ball. Michigan is ascending.

Michigan fans haven’t witnessed a home loss since Ohio State came to town two years ago. The fact that the game is at the Big House provides some reason for optimism.

The optimism might be cautious or guarded, but it’s optimism all the same.


Michigan has installed this emotion into its fans little by little over the last 12 years. Each heartbreaking defeat and every consecutive loss to Ohio State piles on a little more dread for the following year.

By now, fans know all too well how it feels to lose to Ohio State. Knowing that feeling could very well be just days from returning is enough to fill any true fan with dread.

Ohio State has won 14 of the last 15 games, and that one loss came in a transition year. Every season that number brings the all-time series a little closer. Some dread is to be expected.


Hope is similar to optimism, it’s true. But it’s not backed by the team’s performance on the field or justified by statistics. It’s just hope.

Fans hope they can actually have bragging rights for a year. They hope for once to be the ones sneering at Buckeye fans as everyone files out of the stadium. They hope to point out every single "m" in every single tweet, Facebook post and email typed out by Ohio State fans for the next 365 days.

The team’s play over the last month offers a reason for optimism. But when you factor in how The Game has gone over the last eight years, hope is the only thing left.


“A feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome."

OK, the person who invented the word “anxiety” must have been a Michigan fan during Ohio State week, right?

There probably wouldn’t have been much anxiety if Michigan’s season continued down a dark path with losses to Iowa, Notre Dame and Michigan State. But with the sudden turnaround, the outcome is less certain. Michigan has something to lose.

Ohio State has looked so dominant. Michigan fans have to be nervous that one untimely fumble or a missed tackle in the open field could tear down all the progress the team has made over the last eight games. Needing to play a perfect game to win is worrisome.


Seriously how is it only 10:11 a.m. on a Friday? Wait, it’s only Wednesday? Come ON!

Waiting all week for something you’re looking forward to on the weekend is always agonizing, but doing so when you’re not even sure you’ll get what you want is a whole new level of restlessness.

“I can’t wait for the game this weekend. Unless Michigan loses -- then I never want Saturday to come.”

Michigan fans have waited something like 3,000 days to beat Ohio State. Yeah, I think some restlessness is warranted.


Is Michigan really as good as it looked against Notre Dame, Michigan State and Indiana? Could this really be the year the Wolverines take down Ohio State? Wait, the offense is actually throwing the ball to Nico Collins?

Fans couldn’t have asked for a better performance leading into the Ohio State game than what they saw against Indiana. The offense is humming and the defense is stout. But is this real? Can it stand up against Ohio State?

For all the optimism and hope, there’s got to be some suspicion mixed in after last season’s beat down in Columbus. Michigan was favored to win that game and got run out of the building. That broken trust doesn’t repair itself overnight.

Michigan has a good team -- there’s no doubt about that. But good, bad and even great Michigan teams have dropped the ball against Ohio State the last several years, so fans have a right to be suspicious.


If Michigan loses to Ohio State this weekend, the only thing worse than thinking about the past 10 years of the rivalry will be looking forward to the next 10.

“If not now, then when?” That’s the most damning question that can come out of The Game. It’s what experts said during the preseason. It’s what everyone will be saying Saturday morning.

If Jim Harbaugh loses to Ohio State at home this season, does anybody believe Michigan can win in Columbus next year, against an improved Justin Fields? He’ll be staring 0-6 in the face with even more pressure mounting for the 2021 season.

One game doesn’t make or break a program, but each loss makes Michigan fans a little more desperate for in this rivalry, and there have been a LOT of losses.

About the Author:

Derick is a Senior Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.