Since 1897, the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry has represented a tradition of intensity far greater than a single season football game. Considering Ann Arbor's current 3-8 standing, however, many have questioned whether or not this year's battle in Columbus will provoke the same fan fervor that's defined the game in the past. But despite the icy record, coach, and temperatures to match, it seems that Wolverines of all ages haven't run for cover, but rather, have bundled up in the hopes that the storm will pass and the sun will shine on maize and blue once again.
For most of his life, 69-year-old Ira Jaffe has devoted his fall weekends to following his Wolverines across the country. Since age seven, the Detroit native has attended a solid majority of home and away games, and spent the last 30 years throwing weekly tailgates outside the Big House for close to 2,000 people per game.
Despite this season's difficulties, Jaffe's devotion has yet to falter, and Saturday morning, the Michigan alum -- and his grandson -- will once again be present to watch the event up close.
But it's certainly not just alums that are holding out hope. For Michigan junior Katie Kohn especially, this weekend's rivalry hits even closer to home. Kohn comes from a "mixed-marriage" -- her mother went to Michigan, while her father's alma mater is Ohio State. Her hometown may be Cleveland, Ohio, but she concedes that her heart belongs in Ann Arbor regardless of the score.
Although she recognizes the reality of Saturday's game, the fourth generation Wolverine believes that even the smallest margin for victory could amount to a win against the Buckeyes. "Rivalries often bring out the best in both teams, especially this rivalry, so if there is a game that Michigan could win against a top 25 team, this is it," said Kohn.
Even amidst such optimism, though, it's no secret that the new coaching staff has given Michigan football fans reason for concern. Between last year's departure of Justin Boren and the recent dismissal of Jason Kates, there's been much talk of what will come of the Michigan football dynasty under the direction of Rich Rodriguez.
Like many others, 21-year-old Jeremy Borovitz believes Rodriguez's offensive coaching doesn't match the team's current roster; he hasn't worked with what he's been given. What's more, Rodriguez's problems may be bigger than inside the walls of The Big House on football Saturdays.
"He hasn't reached out to the Michigan community as much as he should have," said Borovitz. "He hasn't done what John Beilein has done. [Beilein]'s on the Diag, he's meeting students, he's meeting professors. He wants to be a part of this community because he understands that this is a community, and I think [Rodriguez] has yet to do that."
Still, Borovitz and 20 of his friends will join Jaffe and so many others on the trek to Columbus. Kohn, on the other hand, plans to watch the game from Ann Arbor and says that although many of her peers have lost hope and interest throughout the season, those same students will come back out Saturday to cheer on their school.
As Saturday morning gets closer, Michigan students, faculty and alums anxiously await the arrival of the year's most anticipated event. While some will go the distance to see the game in person, others are content to watch humbly from campus and their homes nationwide. And while the Wolverine's may not be in a position to match the rivalry's original score of 34-0, the true Michigan fans know that infamous encounter is about so much more than tacking on another season win.
"Forget about their record," said Kohn, "They're just fighting for their pride."