ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Keyshawn Woods has seen the Cameron Crazies and lived to tell the tale. The same goes for student sections at North Carolina, Syracuse and the rest of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
It was with that in mind that the graduate transfer from Wake Forest took in Ohio State’s football game against Michigan in November. Having beaten Cleveland State the night before at St. John Arena, the basketball players took in the 62-39 win at Ohio Stadium as a group. For many, including Woods, it was their first glimpse of the rivalry.
One day before going to the Crisler Center for this season’s only meeting between the Buckeyes and Wolverines, Woods reflected on that experience.
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“I understood how big it was, but at that football game, then you really understand, because you really understand Ohio State and Michigan don’t like each other,” he said Monday. “You know how serious it is for both of them, so this game is really serious for us to get this win.”
For Ohio State fans, the chance to see the Buckeyes compete against the Wolverines always carries extra oomph. And although the hashtag #beatblue was trending on Twitter in Columbus on Tuesday, it’s clear the rivalry doesn’t exactly equate to other sports.
When the Big Ten split into divisions in football, a compromise was reached to keep the game in its traditional spot at the end of the regular season. As the league has expanded to 20 conference games and protected in-state rivalries such as Indiana-Purdue and Michigan-Michigan State in men’s basketball, ensuring that the schools will play each other twice each season, the Buckeyes and Wolverines play just once during the 2018-19 regular season.
Now in his second season, Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said he thinks different rivals have popped up for the program during the last two or three decades.
“I’ve heard Wisconsin, Indiana, obviously Michigan, Michigan State,” he said. “I think it depends on where your program is at and where others are. I respect every team in our league, but in some ways everyone seems like a rivalry. Once a year, in football, probably has a different element to it (than basketball).”
On his weekly radio show Monday, Holtmann said his coaching staff often finds itself hearing from more recruits wanting to take unofficial visits that coincide with big football games, joking that sometimes the staff wasn’t even aware they were recruiting some of the players.
Michigan tops the list.
“Certainly when you take in a football game, what you realize is how important it is to so many people who love Ohio State,” he said. “I think that’s probably the most obvious thing is you see just how important it is — in every sport here, but certainly (in football). I’ve gotten a much better overall appreciation for (the rivalry). It’s as passionate as there is in sport.”