Ohio State, Michigan fans ready for undefeated archrivals to do battle

When the Ohio State Buckeyes and Michigan Wolverines square off Saturday in Columbus, scores of local fans will be dealing with members of their own family who will be rooting for the other side.

Most said the rivalry between the schools is intense, but described the barbs between family members as good-natured.

Harlie Ray of Springfield said he grew up Buckeyes fan but his allegiance has been to the Wolverines ever since Ohio State fired Earle Bruce. He said OSU vs. Michigan is the greatest rivalry of all time and he’s “really excited” about Michigan’s record this season.

“Last year, I didn’t think we were going to win, but we did,” he said. “This year I think we got a better shot as long as (running back Blake) Corum can play.”

Ray’s children — Megan, Beau and Cole — cheer on Michigan while Ray’s sister, brother and all their children, nephews and nieces root for the Buckeyes.

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He said he used to watch the Buckeyes take on the Wolverines each year with his extended family, but opted to view it on his own last year and Michigan ended up winning.

“So I’m staying home by myself again this time and hopefully we win,” Ray said.

John Koch of Springboro is a lifelong, third-generation Buckeyes fan who is elated that he purchased season tickets this year.

“It’s the 100-year anniversary of The Shoe and they really have a team that I think has a very decent chance of winning the national championship, so it’s been a great year,” he said. “The big concern is Michigan. I think they’re really good. They’re for real. Last year was a shocker, but they’ve maintained it.”

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Koch said the game against Michigan, which he will attend this year, matters more than winning the league and more than the National Championship “because it’s bragging rights.” That said, with having Michigan nephews, he always has wanted a good rivalry.

“I don’t want to win every single year for 20 straight years,” he said. “That is, until last year. Now I might have changed my mind, because it wasn’t worth it after the fact.

“I’ve always said that Michigan is my second favorite Big Ten team. I want them to win every game, so that when we beat them, it hurts them more.”

Koch, whose wife Stacey is from Mount Clemons, Michigan, spends Thanksgiving with the Michigan half of the family.

“I bring a bag of Buckeyes up to their five acres,” he said. “After hiding them around the house, I go plant them all over their property. Fortunately, my brother-in-law is from Canton, so (he) approves. Long after I’m gone, the buckeye clan will have the last laugh.”

Family members lock up their vehicles, but Koch said he figures out where their keys are and puts the buckeyes in their glove compartments.

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Brent and Kelly Dalton, of Middletown, have been married for 26 years. He roots for Michigan, while she roots for Ohio State.

Asked how things are now in their home, Brent Dalton said “tense,” and laughed.

“She’ll watch in one room and I’ll watch separate from her,” he said. “She’s a trash talker.”

The couple said they knew what they were getting into when they tied the knot, but that hasn’t stopped them from trying to influence their three children.

“We tried to convince each kid that one side was better than the other,” Brent said. “Unfortunately, she won and two of them are Ohio State fans and one of them’s still a Michigan fan with me.”

He said that as a fan, he loves that the two teams are undefeated. “Eleven-and-0 versus 11-and-0 is what you want” he said. “I mean, it’s for all the marbles.”

Laura Thomas of Moraine is a self-described “passionate Buckeyes fan” who grew up watching Ohio State games with her father and ex brother-in-law.

She said she’s been “very impressed” with how well the team is doing this season. Although she looks forward to them going up against their archrivals, facing the Wolverines will be the most difficult game of the season so far for Ohio State, Thomas said.

“It’s a big game and may the best team win,” she said. “It’s going to be a tough game because Michigan is a tough team to beat.”

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Jodi Schaaf of Springboro said she and her husband Doug, both graduated from the University of Michigan and root for the Wolverines, but their nephew and niece root for the Buckeyes.

Schaff said she and her Ohio State nephew and niece along with their Michigan State parents always get together for the big game.

“It’s always been a lot of fun” she said. “Dads and sons will go up to the game when it’s at the Big House and then when it’s here, we watch it on TV, so it’s been a really good thing for us to be able to do with the kids.”

The rivalry, she said is “good-natured all the way” with absolutely no bitterness.

Having both teams with a perfect record makes them facing off all the more sweet.

“You don’t want to win by a ton and you don’t want to lose by a ton,” she said. “It’s always good to have a good match and have strong teams and a good competition.”

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