ANN ARBOR, Mich. – It’s been more than two weeks since Michigan football earned its first win over Ohio State in nearly a decade, and the Ohio State fan base is still in full meltdown mode.
The chatter from Michigan fans has been nonstop since the Wolverines dominated Ohio State on Nov. 27, but this weekend’s Heisman Trophy ceremony brought tensions to a crescendo.
During an interview with Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, who would later finish in second place, Wolverines legend Desmond Howard made a comment that had the entire Ohio State fan base collectively clutching its pearls.
It began when Hutchinson was asked about returning to Michigan for his senior season. While Hutchinson spoke, Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud, also a finalist, was standing to his right, with Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett between them.
“It was to come back -- it was to beat Ohio State and win a Big Ten championship,” Hutchinson said.
“Hey Kenny, I’m glad you’re in between them,” former Heisman winner Tim Tebow said. “Please stay there.”
“Better than his offensive linemen,” Howard said.
It’s amazing the impact those five little words have had on the Buckeyes. They’re absolutely up in arms at Howard’s unmitigated gall. How could he say something so vicious and out-of-line? Keep Ohio State fans in your thoughts this holiday season -- try to hang in there, folks!
As someone who’s watched the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry closely over the previous 19 years -- when the Buckeyes went 17-2 -- the outrage over Howard’s comments is roll-on-the-floor funny. Their indignation coming off two straight decades of relentless bragging rights is as tone deaf as the University of Oklahoma president complaining about Lincoln Riley leaving months after he blindsided the Big 12 with a move to the SEC.
It would take but a shred of self-awareness to remember Ohio State’s own College Gameday representative taking an unprovoked shot at the Wolverines around this time last year.
“I still think Michigan waves the white flag, and potentially avoids playing Ohio State next week,” Herbstreit said during a COVID outbreak within the Michigan football program. “Michigan could opt out, basically, of that game, and keep Ohio State out of six games to qualify for the Big Ten championship.”
This has been a rallying cry for Ohio State fans who believe Michigan chickened out of The Game (the irony, of course, is that Ohio State canceled a game earlier in the season due to its own outbreak). But now, after Howard makes a comment about the offensive line, Buckeyes want to take a moral high ground. That is... certainly a choice!
It’s especially ironic considering Stroud spent basically the entire week making excuses for why Ohio State lost to Michigan. First, he talked about how he and many of his teammates battled the flu throughout the week (which, realistically, probably did have a meaningful impact on their performance). Then, when asked about his “Heisman moment,” he cited a run against Michigan that was called back due to holding, saying he thought that call might have changed the outcome of the game.
What Stroud failed to mention, of course, is that Ohio State scored a touchdown 32 seconds later, and still lost pretty convincingly.
So to recap, after two decades of everything going their way, after Herbstreit publicly questioned Michigan’s will to even show up for The Game, and after their own quarterback spent his entire Heisman experience taking shots at Michigan, Ohio State fans have been unfairly subjected to the harsh and unconscionable statement: “Better than his offensive linemen.”
If fans could sign NIL deals, Charmin would be a great match.
We’re talking about a fan base that calls U of M “scUM” and crosses out (well, tries to) every “M” leading up to game day. Ryan Day recently said he was going to drop 100 points on Michigan. Ohio State defensive tackle Tyleik Williams posted a Nov. 23 video of him stomping on a J.J. McCarthy Michigan jersey. Where were the scarlet and gray moral police then?
Smack talk is part of the rivalry, and people from both sides definitely take it way too far, at times. But give me a break: Howard’s comment wasn’t even close to crossing the line. Unlike Herbstreit’s, it at least had some basis in fact (Hutchinson sacked Stroud three times during The Game).
Ohio State football fans haven’t had to deal with hardly any adversity over the past 20 years, and it’s starting to show. Surely the next time the Buckeyes win, they’ll remember their newly adopted sportsmanship standards.