Will somebody please teach Rodriguez About the Ohio State vs. Michigan Game

If you stopped by this post yesterday, you will probably notice that there is a different picture. That is because sometime around 7:00 p.m. last night, this site came crashing down. At first I wanted to place the blame on Michigan fans but then I realized…they are Michigan fans.

I have rebuilt the post but for the moment I lost the comments. This is disapointing as the Michigan fans were starting to make fools of themselves. I may have a backup and will post them if possible.

Coach Tressel did everything he could in yesterday’s press conference to remind us that no matter how bad things get up at Michigan, this is still The Game. That means the losing season, the 12 for 36 pass completion against Northwestern, the loss to Toledo…none of that means anything because when it comes to the Ohio State vs. Michigan game, there is no other game like it. No matter what has happened this season, no matter what is on the line, this always has and always will the toughest game either team will face.

The question I want to know however, did anyone tell Michigan?

With Coach Tressel, nobody needed to remind him, nobody needed to leave a button on his desk, nobody needed to teach him about the importance of this game. He knew coming in that first and foremost, his job was to beat Michigan. Like so many of us, Tressel was weaned on the hatred of the Ohio State/Michigan rivalry. It is an inherant part of who he is and it is one of the great things that he brings to this football program.

Up at Michigan however, it is painfully obvious that coach Rodriguez just doesn’t get it. Compare the following:

REPORTER: This is Rich’s first Ohio State-Michigan week, what do you remember about yours as a head coach?

COACH TRESSEL: That you could just simply feel the difference between that week and — you know, all the weeks are exciting and all the weeks are a grind and all the weeks are a battle and every team you play is good and can beat you and you feel you can beat them, but there’s something in that Ohio State-Michigan week that you can just feel, whether it’s the attentiveness of the players or the attentiveness of the media or the attentiveness of the people walking on campus bumping into the guys in class, you know, or you turn on the radio station or the TV station in the morning and, “Good morning, it’s 5:00, it’s Ohio State-Michigan week.” And for a while it was all, hey, we’re ready to have an election or something, but now, this morning — so you can just feel it.

Yep, that sums it up. All Ohio State/Michigan fans know (I’m assuming Michigan fans aren’t that lame) this difference. It starts when you get up Monday morning and builds until the game on Saturday. Some years might be bigger than others but it is always there.

Let’s now jump up north to hear how Coach Rodriguez feels about his first Ohio State game (from his press conference yesterday):

On why he hasn’t made this game the ultimate priority of the season?… “Well, I don’t know, maybe I have and you all don’t know it. I don’t think everything that I’m thinking or telling the team is made public, but I didn’t make any public statements or declarations or anything like that, because there are a whole lot of things that we’re trying to do.

Is it just me or does he sound like he’s hedging?

I’ll never diminish the importance of a Michigan-Ohio State game ever. Never have, never would. It wouldn’t be smart to do that. I wouldn’t do it anyway. First day I got on the job, somebody sent me a “Beat Ohio State” button, and it’s sitting next to my phone. I see it every day.

You’re kidding right? You mean the only reason you wouldn’t diminish the importance of The Game is because you realize it wouldn’t be the “smart” thing to do…as in the Michigan fans would hand you your pink slip before the end of the first half.

And like I said, Tressel didn’t need a button.

“Just because I don’t say something about that on my first day on the job, doesn’t mean I don’t understand the importance of the game. It’s just we’re in a process now of trying to build a championship program, and there are a whole lot of things on our plate.

Is it just me or did he just diminish the importance of the Ohio State/Michigan game?

“For right now, the most important thing is Ohio State. There’s a lot of work we’ve got to do to get this program where I want it to be and where our fans want it to be.

As important it is to Jim (Tressel) and his program and his staff, it’s just as important to us.”

No really…it’s true…I want to be just like Jim Tressel and his program and staff.

But wait, it only get’s worse:

On the players teaching him an appreciation for the rivalry?… “They don’t need to help me. I’m trying to — I told them last night, I don’t think I have to explain to them the importance of the game and the intensity of the rivalry. I think if you follow college football at all you understand that.

Yeah…if you follow college football you’ve got to know how important this rivalry is…just ask any SEC fan.

But wait, he’s not through. He’s got a lot more stammering to go:

On preparing for the game?… “Well, I would hope at least in particularly with rivalry games and Michigan-Ohio State, that it’s easiest for them to focus on the preparation. You’d like for them to take that mindset in every week because every game is so important. That’s why everybody wants to play college football.

“Right now, the regular-season games have so much importance on every game that you hope they take that championship preparation into every week.

“One thing about a rivalry game, in particular this game, you would think their intensity and preparation is at an all time high, so the coaches shouldn’t have to worry about it. I can tell you better after we practice a couple of days, but yesterday was pretty good. I think our guys will be extremely focused as they should be.”

Why golly, I really think the Michigan players will be excited for it…won’t they?

You know why Ohio State players get their intensity up for The Game? It’s not because of some coach has a hope that they will get themselves up for it. It’s because from the minute they walk into the Ohio State locker room and dress for their very first practice, they are ingrained with the importance of this game. They are taught the importance of tradition. They know the words to Carmen Ohio before they know how to sign out equipment. They understand that those little gold pants represent the highest honor an Ohio State football player can earn.

If for a moment, an Ohio State play has a lapse of reason and forgets, the training center features a giant countdown clock counting the seconds to the kick off of The Game. And if that’s not enough, there is also a giant sign with the score of the last game we lost to Michigan.

And that about sums it up. Coach Tressel spent the better part of his press conference talking about how even though Michigan absolutely sucks, this will be a tough game, it is always a tough game and it will always be a tough game because like us, Michigan understands the intensity of this rivalry and they will always play better than their best.

Coach Rodriguez, however, spent the better part of his trying to convince everyone that sure, it’s an important game but not really that important.

Update: In case you missed it, Michigan blog Maize n Brew went on something of a rambling diatribe in response to this post. In classic Michigan fan style, basically resorted to calling me “dumb.”

There was a nice string of comments developing on this post but they were lost in the server hack crash last night. If I can, I will restore them but don’t count on it.

One thing I pointed out in those comments was not that I was “talking shit” (as one Michigan fan accused) because I knew we would win. As both that fan and the Maize n Brew failed to notice, I want a good Michigan. I want a Michigan coach who understands tradition. I want a Michigan coach who can bring the best possible team to the table. I want a Michigan coach worthy of the rivalry that is Ohio State/Michigan.

I’m afraid that Rich Rodriguez is not now nor will be that coach.

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