Fables of the Reconstruction Pt.2: Feasts of Sorrow (2024)

Sometimes you love a song because of how old you were when you first heard it.

It's a trick our silly brains play on us and the prevailing reason why so many people suffer from Good Ol' Days brainworms. Stuff was better when I was younger. Weird how humans across every generation feel this way, whether theygrew up eating lead paint chips or Lunchables.

I have studied this disease, understand how it works - and yet I cannot be convinced there was a better 15-year musical period in recorded human history than 1983-1998. Yes, for me that was grade school through college, why - is my age poisoning my opinion?

That musical era puts every other one to shame musically. I can already hear someone arguing but what about 1820-1835, that was better. Schubert, Mozart and Chopin coexisted and form a strong first line - undeniable - but where's the depth?

Where's the variety? You really want to pit piano, violins, cellos and cholera up against synthesizers, saxophones, cocaine and electric guitars? Mismatch. Akron visits the Horseshoe in two months, that's going to be more competitive.

The sheer volume of bangers released over 44 days in 1991 outpaces most decades, especially the early 1800s. Ah, 1991. My senior year in high school, and before you accuse me of youth bias -I have ample room in my clogged heart for Mozart and Chopin. I just get annoyed listening to people who were teenagers when they were rocking Vienna try to inflate that importance of that era. Teenage love is a weapon of mass distraction.

As for eras we have all experienced together, shared memories serve everyone differently. That's the largely discarded conclusion of a famous Robert Evans quote. You're probably familiar with some version of it - we kicked off the Fables series with it two weeks ago:

There are three sides to every story: your side, my side and the truth. And no one is lying. Memories shared serve each differently.

Subscribing to most of that belief has been quite useful inhelping me adjust to The Misinformation Era without devouring my mental health. Not sure I fully buy into the no one is lying part. Everyone lies, to each other and especially to themselves. We also tend to remember the same things differently.

FABLES OF THE RECONSTRUCTION

People can be objectively wrong or absorb and then rely on blended memories, which time and dying neurons corrupt into a firsthand experience. I've attended and rewatched so many football games in my life there are a few I can no longer place correctly, like was I actually there or did I insert myself into the stadium from my living room? It's scary.

RELATED Fables of the Reconstruction Part 1: The Guy After Woody

Part One was my version of the truth for most of the Earle Bruce era, which my brain calls The Eighties even though it began in The Seventies and concluded while Ronald Reagan was still a resident at the White House.

Ohio State football's 1990s actually began in 1988. Election year. A new emperor in Columbus.

Fables of the Reconstruction Pt.2: Feasts of Sorrow (1)

Oct. 19, 1988 - President Ronald Reagan with Ohio State alumnus and Olympic gold medalist Butch Reynolds at St. John Arena. © Fred Squillante/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Speaking of the former president, I saw him speak when I was in high school - relevant photo above - but my prevailing memory from that day was that he talked about his college fraternity?

It's bizarre which little stubborn facts choose to be sticky in your memory, which slide out of your ear holes forever and which mutate into new non-facts masquerading as the truth. That got me thinking - did I actually see Reagan speak at St. John Arena?

Was I really there or did I borrow that memory from the news and make it my own? Reagan was in town on a Wednesday, so did I hitch an eight-minute ride from UAHS to Woody Hayes Drive (which was West Woodruff a few years earlier) during school hours?

Aside from the fraternity bit, I remember my vantage point of him at the podium was from the side, because they don't give ugly, despondent teenagers who aren't old enough to vote good seats for presidential speeches.

And I distinctly remember thinking wow his hair doesn't look that gray on television.

Reagan did shout out his fraternity according to the transcript, and the OSU frat bros in the crowd did a fratty chant in response. Bros are timeless, while presidents age like milk forgotten in the backseat of a hot car. I was probably in St. John that day, and my trips to that arena for everything from wrestling tournaments to basketball games - to presidential speeches, apparently - all run together.

There are three sides to Ohio State football. You have yours. The truth is out there, somewhere. Here's mine.

This week, it's my vantage point of the John Cooper Era, which history has rendered down to three terrible numbers. Is that unfair? No. But also, yes. The truth is meant to be memorialized.

Coop turned 87 yesterday. Happy birthday, coach.

PART TWO: FEASTS OF SORROW

January 1, 1987 was a great day for teenage me. I'll argue it was great for people of all ages.

The Buckeyes dumped Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl that afternoon by 16 as three-point underdogs, and if that wasn't glorious enough - their game was followed by Michigan losing the Rose Bowl.

Relevant - here were my top five Cooper Era football fantasies, in order:

  1. Ohio State beating Michigan
  2. Ohio State winning a bowl game
  3. Ohio State winning a big game
  4. Ohio State winning any game
  5. Michigan losing any game

National championships? Those were mythical. Same likelihood as dry-humping a unicorn. My fantasies were all accessible. The first one was a little too hard to come by, and you can leave your sticky puns at the door - this is a family column.

On the first day of 1987, two of my fantasies took place in a single afternoon. I did not know such teenage bliss was possible. I also didn't know Arizona State had a football team because their games were never on television in Ohio and they literally had never been to the Rose Bowl which was when I saw Pac 10 teams in action, so how could I have known?

The game itself was hysterical. Michigan couldn't do anything against them and ASU shut the Wolverines out in the 2nd half. I was unaccustomed to seeing That Team being bullied into oblivion in the best setting college football had to offer.

Chris Spielman scored more touchdowns in the 2nd half of the Cotton Bowl earlier in the afternoon than Michigan scored as an entire team after halftime. Spielman played defense, youngsters. He wore a neck roll and launched impotent steroid-enhanced Texans into space while visiting Texas. Phenomenal day. I couldn't have been happier.

And then one year later, the mastermind behind Michigan's undoing in Pasadena was coaching my team. It's not like I was the only Columbus resident watching that dismantling unfold while making sure the VHS tape in our piping hot 17-poundVCR had captured all of the Cotton Bowl.

Coop's hiring still felt like I was in on a secret. I know exactly where and when Ohio State discovered this guy, shhhh don't tell anyone else. Everyone knew. We all watched that Rose Bowl.

It would be a glorious era, with Bo schembechler heading for retirement with no obvious successor while john Cooper was only 50, fit, energetic and hell-bent on making Ohio State an NFL feeder that bullied the entire region and made national relevance a feature, not a bug.

The mastermind brought his offensive coordinator (Jim Colletto!) and best defensive coach (Bill Young!) with him from Tempe. He hired the head-coach-in-waiting away from Virginia Tech, some Ron Zook guy with a long runway. The Big Ten was on notice. The Buckeyes were the past, but - this just in - they were now the future as well.

A few years later Colletto was persona non grata and Young is known as the architect of the worst day ever, so it's a little jarring to reminisce about how happy the tarmac was prior to that honeymoon flight.

The new guy didn't sound like us. That was the first thing my silly teenage human brain told me, which was an interesting observation for a kid still very late to figuring out 'Merican English (not my first language!) but I could just tell the accent was nothing like the one I was trying to master.

The Coopers didn't seem to know anything about Ohio, except that Ohio State was there and the Buckeyes were always supposed to be really good - which made this a far better employer than Arizona State, or Tulsa prior to that. Coop immediately hired his son, also Coop, to follow him around during games, like a living security blanket.

I thought that was cool. I had not discovered nepotism or cronyism yet, but even in hindsight - if Junior managing Senior's headset cable during games is one of your complaints with the era, I envy you.

And then there was 1/1/87, the best New Year's Day of my lifetime to that point - because once the Buckeyes had finished packing the Aggies into a Dallas dumpster, the inadvertent job interview was underway. Coop was so impressive for those four hours. Do you know how hard it was to beat Bo Schembechler in a bowl game?

...quite easy, actually. Bo's teams went to 17 bowl games and lost a dozen of them, but that wasn't the point - most of the teams Michigan lost to were good, like USC, UCLA, Washington and Oklahoma. I unknowingly attended what ended up being the de facto national championship in 1984 while visiting my grandmother over Christmas.

Watched BYU beat the Wolverines where the San Diego Padres played baseball. The Cougars ended the polls ranked beneath no one. No shame in losing to the national champs, Blue.

But Arizona State? The Sun Devils were so rich in football history that they had been to more Salad Bowls than Rose Bowls by the time Coop took them to their first big stage. Oh, do you know whom ASU lost to in the Salad Bowl? Of course you do.

Coop was country by birth and demeanor, and coastal by vocation and track record, bringing with him two foreign elements to Columbus which had eluded my beloved college football team going back to the days of a mythical Texas import who told Ohio State's players Michigan puts their pants on just like us, one leg at a time. That guy didn't sound like us, either.

Fables of the Reconstruction Pt.2: Feasts of Sorrow (2)

John Cooper coached the Buckeyes from the 1980s beyond Y2K. © RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

Francis Schmidt turned that folksy saying into jewelry the NCAA grandfathered into its rulebook as a permissible benefit back when NCAA rules existed. Gold Pants come from Texas, but they're made in Ohio, earned in Columbus or Ann Arbor. The parallels were easy to draw.

So Coop already had Michigan locked down. We were destined for lost greatness.

It was going to be a glorious era, with Bo heading for retirement with no obvious successor while Coop was only 50, fit, energetic and hell-bent on making Ohio State an NFL feeder that bullied the entire region and made national relevance a feature, not a bug.

Going 9-3 every season like Earle did had officially been deemed an offense worthy of termination, so we were only looking at 10-win floors heading into 1988. Multiple fantasies, every year. Double-digit wins, in a time where that was rare for any program.

Coop did get his 10th win at Ohio State in November, as expected. It just took two Novembers to get there. If that's one of the grievances you still carry from that era, I envy you. This era is not remembered for what transpired during the 1980s death rattle.

But the Buckeyes going 4-6-1 in 1988 with a new, modern, folksy coach was super weird because OSU having a losing record felt like a crime. Like, how was that allowed? Shouldn't the FBI be looking into this? That sixth loss that year came at home to Michigan in a game I still cannot believe the Buckeyes found a way to lose.

It was disgusting, but inspiring - a pretty lousy team had gone to Ann Arbor with a fired coach the previous November and won, and this one was somehow worse and basically ole'd a W into an L. Michigan got its revenge for 1/1/87, at Ohio State's expense. Better enjoy this one! Once Coop gets his guys into the roster it won't be so charitable.

Those guys, of course, were biggerfasterstronger football players. Let's revisit what Coop said about Earle's refugees, which we covered in Part 1:

The guy after Earle famously blamed the roster and strength program he inherited from the guy after Woody. He talked about having too many slow white guys and publicly bemoaned about how only a handful of his players could get 400 pounds up on the bench press.

When he was asked to clarify his slow white guys comment - this was pre-internet, so we're going off of my own firsthand or possibly a blended memory here - Coop clarified that he did not observe any obvious slowness among the Black players on the team.

It was funny then and it's funnier when you realize Coop was basically describing Bo Pelini.

So he brought with him recruiting standards where He Wants to Be a Buckeye wasn't the first or second priority, and the 1980s were as far from the 1950s as the 2010s were while he was settling into the job. Coop would be defining his own era, beholden to nothing historical as he paved a future for Ohio State football as a national brand.

This is as true today as it has been in any era: No one kicks Ohio State's ass quite like Ohio State does.

Regionality was not a priority. His first full recruiting class featured some absolute monsters, like, a whole new standard of dude. Did they get Ohio State? I didn't care. I didn't know better, either.

This is my version of history, not a recap of Ohio State's 1988-2000 seasons. I'm not going to waste the energy to look it up and list them for you - I'll just share what I remember at the time, because it was my reality.

First and foremost, Alonzo Spellman, whom I later had the misfortune of sitting behind in a movie theater resulting in a somehow scarier version of The Silence of the Lambs. The most imposing figure I had ever seen in person, narrowly edging out America's 40th president.

Raymont Harris was in that first class. The Quiet Storm. The Ultraback. Two of the greatest nicknames bestowed on a human person, let alone a running back. He concluded his Ohio State career dumping former national champion Brigham Young on the same field I watched them take down Michigan while backing into a national title. Raymont deserved better.

Chico Nelson was in that class. Dante Lee, Ohio State's first Dante going back to Dante "Gluefingers" Lavelli (I have no idea if that's true but I had - still have - a signed Lavelli helmet and decided it was true in 1989). Steve Tovar was in that class. Jason Winrow, an expert storyteller, was in that class. So was DaveMonnot. Two giants who left us far too soon.

Jason Simmons was in that class. NFL linemen, plural, were now choosing to become Buckeyes every year. Ohio State traditionally had a handful of NFLish guys every season. Coop was determined to ensure they had three handfuls.

They were intent on winning the NFL Draft, but they weren't winning Big Ten titles. By 1993 the drought had grown to six seasons, the longest in my lifetime. I was now in college. Michigan had escaped in 1988, won a hammer fight in 1989 and got a third-straight win in 1990 in what is still one of the biggest What the f*ck Was That affairs I've ever seen in person.

I now believe the 1990 game ended any chance Coop had of salvaging the magic of 1/1/87 and reminding his congregation that he was the same guy who had made that New Year's Day so special in Columbus. It's what scares me about Ryan Day at the present moment, a coach with a penchant for reacting like Marty McFly in the Back to the Future series whenever someone calls him a chicken. I'll exhale after the 2024 season concludes.

Ohio State wasn't puckering in Michigan games from 1988-1990. It was clenching up and playing cowardly football from 1991-1996, even with two non-losses in that span. Coop's approach from 1988-90 and 1997-00 were fine. They just lost. Michigan was very strong across both of those stretches, and the Buckeyes should still win half the time. They went 1-6.

That 1990 game was when the local media really began to turn on him, which - this is what it's like in a big bubble - was more effective negative recruiting for Ohio talent than anything an opposing coach could ever say during an in-home visit. This is as true today as it has been in any era: No one kicks Ohio State's ass quite like Ohio State does.

Fables of the Reconstruction Pt.2: Feasts of Sorrow (3)

Joey Galloway catches a pass from Arizona State transfer Bret Powers against Wisconsin at Camp Randall Stadium in 1993. The Buckeyes tied the Badgers 14-14, blocking a 22-yard Wisconsin field goal attempt with seven seconds left in the game. It is the final Ohio State football game to end in a tie. Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland native Desmond Howard struck the Heisman pose at the Big House the following season, giving Michigan a permanent stained glass window icon for its cathedral. If you weren't alive in that era, Howard is a carnival barker on Saturday mornings - he was a very serious villain in his playing days.

That decision to punt to him that afternoon will never make any sense. The blueprint for keeping the best players from beating you was followed for the majority of the 1996 season, when opponents threw in Shawn Springs while Ohio State was in man coverage approximately zero times. Have you ever heard of a corner winning Defensive Player of the Year in a conference after recording zero interceptions? You have now.

Howard never should have gotten a punt to return, and neither should have Charles Woodson three Ann Arbor visits later - and yet both times they received manna from heaven with room to operate. It made no difference in 1991 - Napolean kept it closer with the Russians than Ohio State did that day - but in 1997 it gave Michigan a win and a clear path to a national title.

After 1990, if Coop were to reverse this momentum in Ohio State's favor, he'd square his personal record against the only opponent that mattered after I finished college in 1995. I'd be ancient by that time. The world revolved around me, so this was the only timeframe that mattered. A year later, that stupid pose from that stupid guy who chose that stupid school.

Fables of the Reconstruction Pt.2: Feasts of Sorrow (4)

1996: If no.3 in red simply looks at no.2 in white, no.29 scores.

Coop notched a non-loss in 1992, which was treated like a win because we were all tired of feeling like losers. Ties are weird to talk about today because a world without ties didn't exist back then. They happened a lot. Michigan went 9-0-3 in 1992, with the Buckeyes being their third tie. Undefeated Season. There were shirts.

Loser behavior is contextual, and appreciating that tie didn't feel like it because ties happened. For most of my life, whining about officiating and cheating has been loser behavior. I've reconciled the 2022 Peach Bowl because I can accept how the events transpired - Ohio State did too many inconceivably stupid things to enable that outcome.

Michigan had Ohio State's playbook before the first drive of the 2022 game, and there's unimpeachable evidence of it. Had an inexcusable garbage defense and put Cameron Martinez into the game for four plays, all of which Michigan used to exploit Cameron Martinez.

The previous year the Buckeyes' defense deserved to win nothing of consequence, including the 48-45 Rose Bowl they survived. The first three plays of the 2nd half were called by Marty McFly, trying to prove a dumb point to himself and nobody else. Last season, the quarterback he rejected, a lifelong Ohio State fan who bonded with Emeka Egbuka during recruitment led Michigan to a win over the comprehensively mediocre recruit he chose instead.

And in Martinez style, the Buckeyes put a freshman with very little playing experience into the secondary for one play and Michigan threw a touchdown pass at him. Cheating and impropriety matter, but Ohio State was beyond the acceptable limits of complicity in the current three-game slide.

The 2019 Fiesta Bowl was op run out of Birmingham. Points were taken off the scoreboard by a review that in no galaxy made any sense and targeting was used as an instrument to impair one team up by 16 points and rolling to a victory. If the teams were reversed that evening, I'd be hunting down the complicit B1G agents who chose the winner to thank them for their service. If taking a single grudge to my grave about officials is loser behavior, I'm a loser.

This is to say I didn't have any animus toward Michigan for evading the flimsy NCAA rulebook or any make-believe ethics for competing fairly. Woodson's mother, a forklift operator by trade, was seen in a fur coat in Fremont after his recruitment in a scene right out of Goodfellas following the Lufthansa heist. His future agent covered his spring break trip.

Common knowledge, and none of that contributed to Ohio State's decision to give him a returnable punt or Stanely Jackson's decision to hit him right in the 2 on a pass into the end zone. Demetrius Stanley could have pretended to block him in 1996 as Pepe Pearson scored a touchdown that would have changed the game's trajectory.

That 1994 win over Michigan bought him half a decade. Finally, the dynasty. This would be the stretch we've all been waiting for. The 1995-1999 Buckeyes would be too good to fail.

Coop's futility on the final Saturday, while building a machine that rivaled any other dynasty the sport has ever seen, was all his own. When he didn't manufacture his own bad luck, it happened to him. The number of forgettable moments which cascaded into losses to Michigan are almost hard to quantify or believe. I feel like I've written about all of them over the past 27 years, but I'm sure I've missed a bunch.

By the start of the 1991 season the days of being pissed off about Ohio State going 9-3 were ancient history, with the Buckeyes notching 8-4 every year because the ninth wins never came. They would lose the final game of the season before losing the second-tier bowl game.

The difference between Earle and Coop is Michigan became a narrative no one wanted, and it involved solving single-integer math problems. He was being undone by a variety of factors in and out of his control, like Elvis Grbac, Howard and every other Ohioan choosing Michigan becoming stars (this isn't true, but it felt true enough).

He was forced to talk about it, and that was a big part of the problem. When he talked about having too many slow white guys it was funny. But when he talked about Michigan, it wasn't funny. He didn't sound like us. How can a guy who doesn't sound like us possibly understand the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry?

In between losing Michigan games, there was Joe Staysniak. Jeff Graham. Scottie Graham. Kent Graham - a whole bunch of guys named Graham, for some reason. Spellman, Tovar, Robert Smith - who struggled with alcohol but blamed an assistant coach nobody liked, which gave him a year off of football (this isn't a secret).

Big Daddy Dan Wilkinson, the best interior defensive lineman I had ever seen at Ohio State. Korey Stringer, the second-best offensive tackle I had ever seen at Ohio State, playing on the same line as Orlando Pace, the best offensive tackle of all time. Terry Glenn. Eddie George. Mike Vrable. Matt Finkes. Luke Fickell. Rickey Dudley. Andy Katzenmoyer. David Boston. Antoine Winfield, pound-for-pound the best football player in program history (weigh him, don't fight me on this).

Coop ushered in an era of comic book hero-level football players, and I say this as an adult when they played who became and is still friends with several of those guys. Their inability to maintain a trophy dynasty will never make sense to me, and it's part of the reason why Brian Hartline's room not having Gold Pants since 2019 isn't quite as mystifying to the older fans.

It's because Ohio State had two of the best linemen ever on the same line at the same time and the Buckeyes went 9-4. That was 1994, my senior year in college. Ended up around the 20-yard line under a pile of fans and Finkes right after time expired on Ohio State's first win over Michigan since I was a freshman in high school. That's a drought.

Well that had to be enjoyable actually no, they lost 63-14 to Penn State that season. Eddie fumbled twice inside the 5-yard line against Illinois that season. We were two generations of players into the Coop era and the Buckeyes were routinely ranked in the 20s or not at all.

That 1994 win over Michigan bought him half a decade. Finally, the dynasty. This would be the stretch we've all been waiting for. The 1995-1999 Buckeyes would be too good to fail.

Fables of the Reconstruction Pt.2: Feasts of Sorrow (5)

Nov 18, 1996; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes running back Eddie George (27) runs against the Indiana Hoosiers at Ohio Stadium. The Buckeyes best the Hoosiers 42-3. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

This demarcates my student life from present day. Prior to 1995, I was a dependent. Since then, I've been independent and taken on dependents. The first five years on my own coincided with Ohio State losing to Michigan in excruciating ways I had not conceived. 1/1/87 was the fantasy standard. 11/25/95, 11/23/96 and 11/22/97 were the opposite.

Cooper was on solid footing, and the calls for his removal were now viewed as fringe, unhinged views which caused more harm than good. The 1994 win, a blowout on the scoreboard, was the turning point. That single Saturday extended his tenure and settled everyone down. Euphoria is a hell of a drug.

I was never given the opportunity to see Ohio State's 1995 or 1996 games live, and sure - there's a GIF a few inches above this paragraph that suggests otherwise but I have 100% confidence I was in Europe during the 1996 game. In 1995, out of respect to my family, I'll leave the details of why I missed the game out of this retelling. I'll just say my radicalized stance on preserving fall Saturdays for college football has deep roots.

As for 1996, it's somehow more grisly for me and involved the Kew Gardens platform on the London Tube. I was waiting for the train and had successfully blocked all news sources from the fledgling World Wide Web from informing me of the 1996 Ohio State-Michigan outcome.

I would get back to the States and find a VHS tape waiting for me in my mailbox to watch the game as it happened. The train approached and came to a stop. The doors opened, and a man reading the international version of USAToday was standing in the middle of the train. The front page showed a picture of red jerseys attempting to block a field goal.

The headline above it read Michigan Does it Again. That's it, that was all the detail I had. It was a Monday morning - USAT doesn't publish on weekends - so for two days I had wondered in my head if the Buckeyes had covered the 17-point spread or simply won the game. That VHS tape was waiting for me upon my arrival back home a week later. I taped the 1997 Rose Bowl over it without watching its original content.

After 1996 I adopted what I now recognize as full-blown Loser Behavior, accepting the Buckeyes would win meaningless games with players who would win championships in any other uniform. My program was cursed for having allowed another interloper who didn't sound like us to linger longer than anyone else would have been allowed.

You're the center of the universe in your own life, which allows you to be the victim or merely a citizen of the world forced to share in its abundant resources, opportunities and pitfalls. I never went a single day without thinking about that team for the entirety of that decade or ever since. I don't know if it's the Cooper era that did this to me, because I've only lived when I've lived.

Fables of the Reconstruction Pt.2: Feasts of Sorrow (6)

The entire Cooper era rendered down to a single drive, this is how every season felt.

The Buckeye fans who grew up when Mozart, Schubert and Chopin were playing shows at the Al Rosa Villa might have wound up the same way. That 1996 game I never watched knocked Coop back into his fresh-from-Tempe form, as the 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000 games were unpuckered performances that produced a single win and three losses.

The downslope came at the hands of gray-haired Nick Saban, of all people. He hasn't been seen since that game, resurfacing in Baton Rouge a year later with chestnut-brown hair he took with him into retirement a quarter century later. If it isn't Michigan, it's Michigan State became a thing. It's still a thing, believe it or not. Never sleep on Sparty.

That 1998 Ohio State team wins the previous ten Big Ten titles fairly easily, and it has very little trouble with Tennessee or Florida State in the first year of the BCS. This was not a controversial take at the time, but it produced incredible Loser Behavior from a tribe which falsely believed Michigan was all that separated Ohio State from national title opportunities.

I think it was The Fan in Columbus that broadcast an Ohio State-Tennessee game being played on NCAA 1998 which was called by Kirk Herbstreit in January after the Volunteers had beaten the Seminoles. They got Kirk to participate in that. People listened. You're not going to believe this, but Ohio State won. That's not closure. My back hurts after typing this paragraph.

Ten years after his greatest team ever, Coop was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. That makes him one of the greatest players or coaches in the history of the sport. His Ohio State coaching epitaph has three numbers on it, and that's it.That's what this place is like. This is what Day, Urban Meyer,and every coach who comes next is signing up for when they accept what was Coop's job for 13 seasons.

If you dig into the details from that season, the 2024 team shares an eerie number of similarities in composition, tailwinds, headwinds, expectations and opportunities. Even the defending national champion is the same. Anyway, the Buckeyes play Michigan State on Sept 28. Twelve-team playoff. The parallels only collapse in Jenga-style if you allow them to.

Coop got his second, albeit slightly (I said slightly!) hollow Michigan win in blowout fashion, which is a detail no one cares about or cares to remember - but it felt important at the time. All of Cooper's wins over Michigan were blowouts. All of them. All two of them. In 13 tries. Kicked their ass twice.

RELATED Rise of the Machine (2016)

In both occasions, Ohio State was eliminated from what it had aspired to achieve. The team toppled beneath the pressure, the decision-making, the arrogance and the galvanized, juice-possessing program to the north. It took Jim Tressel to repossess it 23 seasons ago.

If you're wondering who the good guys and bad guys are in the rivalry, Jim Harbaugh didn't wrestle it back. That gives him too much credit. Covid did the heaviest lifting. But that's another story for another time.

Fables of the Reconstruction Pt.2: Feasts of Sorrow (2024)

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