John Wilce versus Fielding Yost. Paul Brown versus Fritz Crisler. Woody Hayes versus Bo Schembechler.
The history of Ohio State versus Michigan is known quite simply as the greatest rivalry in not only football, but all of sports. The matchup between the Scarlet and Gray and the Maize and Blue has not only been the showdown of top college football programs, but also the birthplace of some of the biggest coaching rivalries ever.
There is no doubting the magnitude of The Game, but one question currently remains — how do OSU coach Urban Meyer and Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh stack up against each other like the play callers before them?
On paper, both men have the coaching pedigree to make a case as a top coach in the world of football. With numerous accolades from both sides and a history of winning on the biggest stages in sports, either one could find their name mentioned during conversations of football fanatics for eternity.
Meyer arrived at OSU with the winning pedigree in college demanded by Buckeye fans after the ‘Tattoo-Gate” fiasco left many wondering what the fate of the storied program would be. Now-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell led the Buckeyes to a 6-7 record in the 2011-12 season, but Buckeye Nation was clamoring for a change after just one season.
Before leaving Florida amid health concerns and team controversy, the man born in Toledo and raised in Ashtabula, Ohio, had produced one of the best records as a coach in all of college football. After two years with the Bowling Green Falcons and two years with the Utah Utes, where he went a combined 39-8, Meyer earned a job in one of the toughest conferences in college football with the Florida Gators in the Southeastern Conference.
Two national championship rings later, Meyer resigned in 2010 from his position with the Gators after suffering severe chest pain following a loss to Alabama in the SEC title game. But in 2012, OSU announced they had hired the University of Cincinnati graduate.
So far, no other active Power 5 coach has a higher winning percentage in all of college football than Meyer. He currently sits with just under a .93 win percentage, the highest of any Buckeye coach ever.
Overall, Meyer has earned three national championships, two Mountain West Conference titles, two SEC titles and one Big Ten championship. Few coaches stack up to Meyer in terms of coaching experience, and even fewer make a favorable case at topping him in one of the grandest stages.
However, Michigan is led by a man that makes a compelling case of turning the tide in favor of the Wolverines in 2016.
Jim Harbaugh is known for his playing career, his years spent at multiple levels of coaching and his unique character. While Meyer appears reserved during press conferences and relatively calm on the sidelines of games, Harbaugh is not afraid to show his colorful side.
In college, Meyer played for one year at Cincinnati as a defensive back with little in terms of notoriety for his playing days. Harbaugh, on the other hand, has gone down in Wolverine football history as one of the most accurate passers the program, and college football, has ever seen.
Owning a career passer rating that was the top pass efficiency rating in college for over a decade, Harbaugh went on to play for 15 years in the NFL. A veteran of over 170 games, the experience and knowledge he gained while playing under Schembechler propelled Harbaugh into a coaching career.
Harbaugh has bounced back and forth between the ranks of collegiate and professional coach multiple times with success, an almost unheard of situation in the world of football. Beginning as a volunteer assistant coach under his father with Western Kentucky, Harbaugh eventually joined the Oakland Raiders as a quarterbacks coach.
As a college head coach with both Stanford and Michigan, he has a 39-24 record to this point. As for the NFL, Harbaugh earned 41 wins with the San Francisco 49ers, including a NFC championship in 2013.
The coaching pedigree of both Meyer and Harbaugh is unquestionable.
Harbaugh is known for using a stifling defense to wreak havoc and wear down opponents. Meyer uses a high-powered, quick-scoring spread attack to rack up points and pull away early.
The potential for the game to be decided in the last few snaps is staggering, although last season was a completely different story. In his first chance to provide Michigan with just its second victory over OSU in a decade, the Wolverines were outpaced and outplayed by the Buckeyes, dropping the game 42-13.
This year, the significance and outlook of the game is completely different.
Last year, Harbaugh was being introduced into a new program, fresh from the demands of an NFL coach’s schedule and responsibilities. Although Michigan had lost two games before squaring off with OSU, the ability of Harbaugh’s defense to command games and stifle opponents offensive attack provided an interesting matchup.
Meyer and company proved to be too much in the end. But this time, Michigan is within the top five in the Associated Press rankings, and hot on the heels of OSU.
While it’s too early to predict the significance of the final regular season game for both teams, both Meyer and Harbaugh have pushed their respective teams into the national spotlight, setting up a matchup that could rival the 2006 edition of The Game that saw the two teams ranked No. 1 and No. 2 decide the game in the final seconds.
Years of experience and the hunger to lead their respective teams to glory, the second edition of Meyer versus Harbaugh may be more than a game that could put a Big Ten in the conference championship game and potential the College Football Playoff.
It could very well be the dawn of the next great coaching rivalry in college football.