The first installment of this year’s series on the Michigan-Ohio State football rivalry takes us to 1998. The late ‘90s were heady times for the Maize & Blue, and the offseason leading up to the ’98 season might have been the headiest time of all. Coming off a perfect season and a share of the national championship, Michigan had vanquished all the ghosts of seasons past. An expansion of 5,000 seats enabled Michigan Stadium to reclaim the title of nation’s largest college football stadium, and the addition of highly-touted quarterback recruit Drew Henson and highly-touted running back Justin Fargas had Michigan fans dreaming of even more glory.
Unfortunately for Michigan, the 1998 season unfolded with all the charm of a hangover. Many critical players graduated or left early to join the National Football League. My wife and I attended the home opener in the newly expanded stadium, hoping to see the raising of the National Championship banner (in our native New York, the raising of a world championship banner borders on a religious experience). Sadly, Michigan didn’t raise a national championship banner in the stadium, and Donovan McNabb and Syracuse thrashed Michigan.
Still, by the final week of the regular season, Michigan had righted the ship, and was in position to win the Big Ten championship with a victory in Columbus. Unfortunately, Ohio State was lying in wait for Michigan, still smarting from a loss in Ann Arbor the previous season. By now, everyone knows how that game turned out. A year earlier, Michigan cornerback Andre Weathers had been one of the heroes for the Wolverines; this time, Ohio State receiver David Boston burned him for a pair of touchdown receptions on the way to a 31-16 Ohio State win.
Fortunately for Michigan, the Wolverines adhered to Bo Schembechler’s old rule not to let one loss become two losses, as they routed Hawaii in a rare season-ending non-conference game, and then overcame two deficits to top Arkansas in the Florida Citrus Bowl.
Thanks, as always, to ABC Sports, and to YouTube poster Stephen Barnett. We own nothing, and this post is strictly for the enjoyment of readers.