The short-term effects are evident prior to the No. 8 Ohio State Buckeyes matchup with the No. 12 Michigan Wolverines Saturday afternoon at The Big House. The winner gets to hold out hope for a place in the Big Ten title game, assuming No. 6 Michigan State somehow falls to unranked Penn State.
A win for the Buckeyes also technically puts them back in the running for a College Football Playoff spot, despite last week’s loss to the Spartans snapping their 23-game winning streak and potentially snatching away their hopes of repeating as national champions.
A win for the Wolverines all but completes a miraculous turnaround for a program that went 5-7 just a year ago, and puts a conference title in reach for the first time in more than a decade.
Yet while their players will ultimately decide the outcome, it’s possible Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer and Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh could be kicking off a sub-rivalry inside what’s already considered one of college football’s greatest feuds.
While they have a long ways to go to equal former greats Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler, there’s no question Meyer and Harbaugh have much to gain and lose in Ann Arbor.
The two esteemed and accomplished coaches previously worked wonders at other top programs, Meyer at Florida and Utah, and Harbaugh at Stanford and San Diego before he shuttled off to the NFL. Even by taking different paths they still ended up at helm of arguably the most contested and fiery competition in the country.
Harbaugh’s gone 67-29 in the college ranks, and Meyer 152-27, and yet they’ve never matched wits or stared each other down from the sideline. But the winner of the Big Ten regular-season finale will undoubtedly have an edge going forward.
Harbaugh can relish in defeating his program’s most hated rival after taking the job just 11 months ago and forced to scramble for recruits while repairing Michigan's image under Brady Hoke.
Meyer stands to prove that he’s still the premier coach in the conference both by downing Harbaugh’s Wolverines and salvaging the season despite the loss to the Spartans. And while Michigan State falling to the Nittany Lions seems improbable, Meyer could still be in line a fourth national title in his career if Ohio State squeezes into the conference title game and beats Iowa to rejoin the CFP’s top four.
A loss for Harbaugh won’t be seen as a catastrophe, especially in his first season, but he’ll be expected to win next year and snap the Buckeyes winning streak in the 118-year long series. But Meyer could lose consecutive Big Ten games for the first time in his four-year stint in Columbus, and questions may seep in about whether Harbaugh’s not just the new coach on the conference block.
Still, no matter who wins, fans on either side can relish in the fact that these two will likely clash for years to come.
Kickoff: Saturday, 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ABC
Live Stream: Watch ESPN