Earlier in the week, I picked Michigan to win the game. This prediction was much more heartfelt than well-reasoned, as I feel a certain affinity for the Wolverines and a certain corresponding disdain for the Buckeyes, inasmuch as the border rivalry between the two reminds me of the Georgia-Auburn series here in my neck of the woods.
To be sure, there are articulable reasons for preferring the Maize and Blue, but, had I provided such a rationale, it would have been a mere rationalization, and I would not want to insult anyone's intelligence by offering a pretense at justification, however sensible it may seem or how right it may turn out to be.
Subsequent events, however, have convinced me that I was onto something when I went with my heart rather than my head in forecasting this contest. I am referring, of course, to the passing of Michigan coaching legend Bo Schembechler.
I would not wish to minimize the loss of any human life by reducing its importance to its impact on the outcome of a mere game; obviously, Coach Schembechler's death is a tragedy, not just to those who knew him, but to all who loved the sport to which he devoted the whole of his career and a large part of his life.
However, a significant side effect of that life was to inspire the student-athletes of the University of Michigan . . . to play hard, to win with class, to represent the institution in a positive way, to earn their degrees, and to become men. A not insignificant consequence of Coach Schembechler's death will be to inspire the present generation of Wolverine players in a similar fashion as they take the field for the biggest game in which any of them have ever played.
When I was 10 years old, Thurman Munson was killed in an airplane crash and the Yankees immediately thereafter proceeded to beat the Orioles in dramatic fashion in a nationally televised game. When the players embraced out on the diamond, the announcer said something profound: "Emotion won this game."
I still remember watching that game and that statement has stuck with me in all the years since. That is why, despite my utter inability to forecast accurately the outcomes of run-of-the-mill college football contests, I frequently am able to call the results that are driven by emotion rather than by talent or by coaching.
When I saw how infuriated the Ole Miss faithful were by Tommy Tuberville's defection from the Grove to the Plains, I told everyone who would listen that the Rebels would beat Auburn the following fall . . . and they did.
When I saw the resolve of the Texas A&M family after the collapse of the bonfire, I knew that the Aggies were going to beat Texas . . . and they did.
When it became clear last year that Steve Spurrier had an emotional investment in beating his old team, I wrote that the Gamecocks were going to beat Florida . . . and they did.
The record book will count this afternoon's outcome as part of Lloyd Carr's career won-lost ledger, but the record book will be wrong. Today's victory over Ohio State will be Bo Schembechler's 195th win for the Michigan Wolverines.
In Coach Schembechler's first season in Ann Arbor in 1969, the Maize and Blue beat the Buckeyes by a score of 24-12. In Coach Schembechler's last season in Ann Arbor in 1989, Michigan beat Ohio State by a score of 28-18.
This time, I think Bo splits the difference as his Wolverines win in Columbus by a final margin of 26-15.