Michigan has beaten Ohio State once since 2004, a span that includes all seven years of the Urban Meyer era, and all four years of the Jim Harbaugh era. But the rivalry hit a reset point with Meyer's retirement and the promotion of relative newcomer Ryan Day, who shook his staff up more than many anticipated -- and shook the rivalry up by hiring Greg Mattison and Al Washington away from Michigan.
Washington's departure was perhaps surprising but not at all shocking, given that he'd spent just a year at Michigan and that he grew up in Columbus as the son of former Buckeye linebacker Al Washington, Sr.
Mattison, though, his departure was shocking. As close to a Michigan Man as one can get without attending Michigan, Mattison spent two stints with the Wolverines, working for head coaches Gary Moeller, Lloyd Carr, Brady Hoke and Jim Harbaugh from 1992-96 and 2011-18. This is a man who has coached with not only Jim Harbaugh, but Jack and John as well. And he left.
There was a slight connection between he and Day, emphasis on slight: they worked together for a year at Florida, in 2005, when Mattison was Meyer's co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach and Day an offensive graduate assistant. It's unlikely that was enough for the two to become besties, or, really, anything more than co-workers of varying ages, experience level, responsibilities and sides of the ball.
But Day offered Mattison something he wasn't getting at Michigan -- coordinator responsibilities -- and so he left, and in the process left behind a group of (former) co-workers who added some hurt feelings on top of the pain and humiliation of a prolonged losing streak to their bitter rivals.
One of those ex-co-workers is Chris Partridge, Michigan's special teams coordinator and safeties coach. Partridge spoke to the media on Thursday and minced zero words on how he feels about Ohio State these days.
"I've got blood in my mouth," Partridge said. "I don't wake up a day and not think about it."
"I want to be candid. Those guys left and it was another shot. It wasn't OK. That's how I feel. I'm not speaking for anyone else. I'm ultra-motivated and I make sure my guys, whenever I get in front of them, they hear it.... I want to take this thing, hit it in the mouth and go get it. I just think each person is motivated in their own way, but I know my personal opinion. I'm going to coach harder than I ever imagined I could coach.
"And we're going to try to make sure that scoreboard never looks like it did last year (again)."
Last year, the scoreboard read Ohio State 62, Michigan 39, not only stopping the Wolverines' concurrent runs to their first Big Ten East title and the College Football Playoff in the traps, but taking the maize and blue's identity as arguably the nation's best defensive team into a punchline.
The good news for Michigan is that all that pain would make a victory even sweeter. They'll get the opportunity Nov. 30 in Ann Arbor.