Charles Woodson, one of the most famous defectors from Ohio to contribute to the rich history of Michigan football, made headlines recently when he said the Wolverines might not be putting enough emphasis on its rivalry with Ohio State recently.
“Every game has been put on the same level as that game. That’s not the way we were brought up. Not the way we were raised around here,” Woodson said Saturday at The ChadTough Foundation’s gala in Ann Arbor.
“We had no shame in saying (we were going to beat Ohio State). And every time I watch our teams in recent years, it’s ‘oh, it’s another game.’ It’s not.”
I used to like this narrative a lot, but Woodson is probably off base here.
You know why Ohio State has won six in a row against Michigan?
In the past 10 years, Ohio State has signed the top class* in the Big Ten nine times and averaged a national ranking of 5 compared to a 15.6 average for Michigan.
This is something that has trended toward Columbus since 2009.
Before that, Michigan actually signed higher-rated classes. From 2002-08 (or right about the time Rich Rodriguez replaced Lloyd Carr), Wolverine classes averaged a 8.4 ranking nationally compared to 11.3 for Ohio State.
During that period of time, Jim Tressel was regularly credited with perfecting the Buckeyes’ approach to The Game (correcting the mistakes of predecessor John Cooper) while Michigan players were hesitant to declare the Buckeyes their biggest rival because of fear of disrespecting Notre Dame or Michigan State.
Since then, however, Ohio State has caught and flown by Michigan on the recruiting trail while drawing the rivalry closer than it has been in more than 100 years.
(*Since I used to work for a Scout.com site, my records rely on their rankings from 2002-16. I switched to the 247Sports Composite upon their acquisition of Scout and merging of databases.)
Also it’s probably worth mentioning Michigan played above itself more often than not (with Ohio State perhaps not been at its best, either) since Urban Meyer became Ohio State’s coach.
The 2012, ’13 and ’14 games should not have been close, and Ohio State failed to cover the spread last season in Ann Arbor.
ORIGINAL STORY: Detroit Free Press.