The wind and rain, a slate-gray sky and prodigious quantities of mud can not dissuade Ohio State University and University of Michigan fans from cheering on their teams in person.

"I've only missed two games in 30 years, and never a Michigan game," said John Koutras, who helps put together one of the larger tailgate parties outside of Ohio Stadium. "This is our everything."

It was a sea of scarlet and gray outside the stadium all morning, dotted here and there with maize and blue. Flags flapped in the breeze, grills belched smoke, red cups were everywhere. Even some of the ponchos were bedazzled with buckeyes.

As she stood in the grass, mud caking her boots, Alice Epitropoulos beamed at the crowd in the parking lot.

"This is awesome," she said. "This is the finest day of the year."

Setting up for The Game starts on Thursday night, said Ed McGlumphy, who has staked out the same spot for tailgating for 18 years. That's right, on Thanksgiving afternoon, McGlumphy is hauling tents and gear to Ohio Stadium. He's serious enough about the game that he hosted the nuptials of one of his friends at the tailgate in 2016.

"This is our Mardi Gras," said McGlumphy. "You can't beat this."

Everyone was confident that their team was going to win, even the Wolverines fans, who haven't tasted victory over the Buckeyes since 2011, and just three times since 2000.

"This should be our year," said Torsten Krings, a Michigan fan who lives in Columbus.

The Krings family is divided at this time of year. Krings and his son, Connor, are Michigan fans. Krings' wife is a Buckeye through and through.

"It can be tough during football season," Connor Krings said. "We don't talk a lot."

The game didn't go Michigan's way; Ohio State led throughout. But although the Buckeyes scored 62 points, Dustin Konowich, an Ohio State fan from Syracuse, N.Y., said he wanted more.

"It's OK. It's not good enough," Konowich laughed as his sister, Meg Konowich, a Michigan fan, lamented her team's fate. The siblings, who have no roots in either Ohio or Michigan and whose parents root for Syracuse University, have somehow made The Game an annual tradition.

"I've only watched (Michigan) win once," Meg Konowich said. "That was seven years ago."

There's always next year. Even some die-hard Buckeyes wouldn't mind if Michigan regained its footing.

"It's not really a rivalry," Koutras said, "if one side always wins."

jmalone@dispatch.com

@j_d_malone