Ohio State is on pace to lead college football in home attendance this season and would overtake rival Michigan by doing so.
The Buckeyes have averaged 106,761 fans at Ohio Stadium through their three home games this season. Texas A&M is second with 104,298 fans, and Michigan is third with 104,113 fans. LSU (101,460) and Alabama (101,316) round out the top five.
The Wolverines have led college football in attendance for 16 straight seasons and 39 of the past 40 seasons, averaging 110,000 fans or more each of the least four years. Michigan Stadium hasn't had a crowd of fewer than 100,000 since Oct. 25, 1975 against Indiana.
But Michigan has struggled to draw fans this season. Its highest attendance total was just 106,811 in the season opener against Appalachian State, while just 102,824 came for the game against Miami (OH). In the week leading into last Saturday's game against Minnesota, the athletic department was found to be offering two free tickets to the game with the purchase of two Coke products.
The Wolverine's attendance woes are likely the result of the football team's poor performance, having gone 2-3 this season and looking uncompetitive in its last two games, and a combination of ticket price increases, a subpar home schedule this season and dissatisfaction with the changes made by the athletic department to the gameday experience, including more piped-in music in place of the marching band.
Students and fans held a rally on Michigan's campus and created a petition Wednesday night to call for the firing of athletic director Dave Brandon due to the athletic department's changes to football games and its slow response to the Shane Morris controversy, in which the quarterback was allowed to continue to play against Minnesota despite sustaining what was ruled later to be a concussion.
Ohio State averaged an attendance of 104,933 last season. Michigan averaged 111,592.
- Ben Estes