The rivalry between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Michigan Wolverines is about to get a lot more interesting on Saturday.
This will be the first game in which Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh will face off in what many would consider the most intriguing meeting between the two teams since 2006.
Harbaugh has been a successful head coach on both the college and professional level. In stops with the University of San Diego and Stanford, Harbaugh posted a 58-27 record with two conference championships at San Diego in 2005 and 2006, respectively.
After Stanford finished 12-1 with an Orange Bowl win over Virginia Tech in 2011, Harbaugh left the collegiate ranks for the NFL, becoming the head coach for the San Francisco 49ers.
He posted a 44-19 record, including a loss to his brother’s team, the Baltimore Ravens, in Super Bowl XLVII in 2013. After a rift between Harbaugh and the 49ers front office following an 8-8 finish in 2014, Harbaugh left San Francisco to go back to his alma mater and coach the team he onced quarterbacked: Michigan.
Both Michigan and OSU have been teams to be reckoned with in the Big Ten this season, and part of that is due to the job that both Meyer and Harbaugh are doing at their respective schools.
ESPN College GameDay analyst Kirk Herbstreit said this game will be different because of what Harbaugh brings to the table as the man in charge at Michigan.
“Spice. Intensity. For me, even when Ohio State was winning with Jim Tressel, the fan in me liked Woody (Hayes) and Bo (Schembechler). I like the angst, the emotion, the, ‘I’m not going to cross midfield to shake his hand,’” Herbstreit said. “I don’t know if we are going to get to that level with (Meyer) and (Harbaugh), but it’s going to be different. It’s going to be different just because of the personality of (Harbaugh). I’m one of these guys that starting Sunday morning, I don’t know if I’ll sleep because of what could be at stake this weekend. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Despite much of the focus being on the two successful coaches, Harbaugh said in a Monday press conference that the focus should not be on them but on their players.
“My reaction to the coach vs. coach build-up is he’s not going to be blocking anybody; he’s not going to be tackling anybody,” Harbaugh said. “I’m going to be on the sideline blocking and tackling nobody.”
Even so, it’s hard to ignore the impact the coaches have had on their respective programs and in turn, the rivalry in general. When each coach took the helm, the program finished under .500 the year prior.
In Meyer’s first season in Columbus in 2012 and Harbaugh’s first one this year, the teams made major strides. Based on the first-year improvement, it’s completely reasonable to assume that the programs will maintain a level of success for years to come.
That is the reason why these two teams have the potential to re-establish arguably the biggest rivalry in all of sports. With these two premier coaches leading the programs, the recruiting classes for these two teams should be among the best in the country, so the talent pool should be overflowing. With all of the eventual talent coming to these schools, the rivalry will only grow.
And with that, the prominence of one of college football’s biggest rivalries will be restored.