Sometime Saturday evening, one of our favorite GameDay babbleheads — unable to contain himself — will almost certainly start the insanity. Shivering against a backdrop of celebrating fans, Chris or Lee or Kirk will deliver the announcement: "Just 1,224 hours until The Rematch." It's understandable, considering the hype that surrounds Ohio State vs. Michigan, the latest Greatest Game Ever. But let's hope it's just more hyperbole. Look, Ohio State-Michigan is easily the best matchup of 2006. I can live with the relentless, smothering buildup that started weeks — or was it months? — ago. I don't even have a problem with ESPN's latest silly moniker. Saturday is Judgment Day? OK, fine. Just spare us the resurrection. Can someone explain when and how these teams became so much better than everyone else? Fast-forward the winner into the BCS national championship game. But why would Saturday's loser have a better case to get there than USC or Notre Dame or Florida? Or even Arkansas or Rutgers? Ever since Ohio State dropped Texas and Michigan dumped Notre Dame, college football fans have had Nov. 18 circled on the calendar — not that there's anything wrong with it. Those wins catapulted the Buckeyes and Wolverines to the top of the polls, and they've done nothing to disprove themselves. But as unbeatens were beaten and Ohio State and Michigan kept winning, a new drumbeat began to emerge. This week, it has become a significant subplot, spouted by usually sensible types: Let's do this again in January. "I'm fine with that," Michigan tight end Brian Thompson said this week. "Whatever the BCS decides." I'm not fine with that, and neither should anyone else be. Because these teams are good, but they're not that good. If Ohio State and Michigan own the biggest wins of the season, they also own some of the smallest. Aside from Texas, Ohio State has played just two teams with winning records. Penn State is 7-4; Iowa is 6-5. The Buckeyes' opponents' cumulative record: 55-63. Five Michigan opponents have winning records, including Notre Dame and Wisconsin. But the cumulative record is 64-55. The thing about the Big Ten (Eleven) is, it's really the Big Two. Toss Wisconsin in there, if you want. Michigan beat the Badgers; Ohio State didn't have to play 'em. The other eight teams? Well, that's the point. Jeff Sagarin, whose computer ranking is one of six used in the BCS formula, has the Big Ten ranked fourth. The formula must be flawed — there's no way the Big East is better than the Big Ten — but the rankings and reality say the SEC and the Pac-10 are much better, top to bottom. None of this is the fault of the Buckeyes or Wolverines. They're to be applauded for playing those marquee nonconference games and shouldn't be penalized for the weak sisters in their own league. But if we're going to start talking about a rematch, we can't ignore that facet of their resumes, either. You think it might have been tough for Ohio State or Michigan to roll through a midseason gauntlet of Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Georgia? Florida emerged with one loss. You think USC's stretch run of Oregon (last week), Cal (this week), Notre Dame and UCLA might be a little more challenging than Ohio State's recent run through Indiana, Minnesota, Illinois and Northwestern? It's great that Ohio State and Michigan are 11-0, that the 103rd meeting might be the most important ever, that the bitter rivals will play for the highest of stakes. And hey, maybe Judgment Day will even live up to the smothering hype. If we're lucky, it will come down to a gritty drive or a great catch or a goal-line stand. Let's hope it's an instant classic, worthy of countless reruns. But please, no sequel.
Michigan quarterback Chad Henne will lead the Wolverines against Ohio State on Saturday. Associated Press