A year ago, in the aftermath of another dominant Ohio State win over Michigan, a 56-27 shellacking that almost felt routine, there were obvious questions about what “The Game” even meant anymore. The Buckeyes had won 15 of the past 16, the lone exception coming amid a lost year with an interim coach. Was Michigan even capable of making it interesting?
In August, when the Big Ten shut down its season, The Game appeared destined for a hiatus, or perhaps a respite for the Wolverines. In 2020, it could be said, Michigan wouldn’t lose to Ohio State.
Then — what luck! — the Big Ten returned. Ohio State was again a playoff contender, and Michigan — oh, the less said the better. But hey, a rivalry game is the week you throw out the records, which Michigan would have been all too happy to do this weekend. In a year of utter chaos, we’d still have The Game.
And then, it was off again, with the Wolverines the latest program beset by COVID-19, with reportedly close to four dozen players sidelined by the virus and contact tracing.
Now, here we are, on the penultimate Saturday of a season that has never felt quite real, again robbed of one of the hallmarks of fall.
The rollercoaster ride for The Game mirrors so much of what this college football season has offered — hints of hope, mountains of frustration, and in the end, an empty feeling — a loss that, even for Michigan fans, stings in a way no defeat on the field would.