The week we all look forward to is finally here. Hard to believe it's the final week of the regular season, but Michigan Week has arrived. The Wolverines are going bowling for the first time since 2006, adding some pizzazz to the game. Also adding a spark is electrifying quarterback Denard Robinson. Unfortunately, though, for Michigan, teams must also play defense. Michigan is near the bottom of the NCAA standings in every major defensive statistic. The Wolverines will be playing for pride, to end their six-game losing streak against arch-rival Ohio State and possibly Rich Rodriguez's job.
The Buckeyes still have a lot on the table and it isn't just grandma's pumpkin pie. Ohio State enters the Michigan game in a three-way tie with Wisconsin and Michigan State for the Big Ten lead. Win against The Team Up North and Ohio State will win at least a share of the Big Ten title for a sixth straight year and be destined for either the Sugar or Orange Bowl (If Northwestern shocked Wisconsin, they'd find themselves in Pasadena again). The seniors would be the fourth consecutive class to never lose to Michigan, an unprecedented feat.
Ohio State enters The Game coming off a huge win over Iowa for the second straight season. Last week in Iowa City could almost be deemed a miracle of sorts. It looked like OSU would be left for dead after DeVier Posey dropped a sure touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Terrelle Pryor and Co. rallied the troops, though, and came away with a much needed win.
Jim Tressel discussed a host of things today at his weekly press luncheon, most of which centered around the biggest rivalry in all of sport.
Well, don't have to tell you what week this is. It's exciting and there's nothing like it. You can feel the energy in our building and amongst our kids and coaches and fans and all the rest and on the campus, and we're looking forward to it.
I continue to be amazed at how much Tressel "gets" the Michigan game. He couldn't be more different than Coop and Rich Rod in that respect. It's almost like Tressel is a fan. He's a guy that grew up in Ohio the son of a coach, watched the Ohio State-Michigan game every year and then worked under Earle Bruce. He understands this rivalry just as much as the fans of each school. It translates all the way down to the players and is a big reason why he has had so much success against Michigan.
We're looking forward to the fact that we're honoring that 1942 team, which one could argue that that's when a great part of our tradition began in Ohio State football, and not to mention the fact that what those men did once the season was over, they went and served in the ultimate way, and we even lost a couple members of that team in the war, so you put all those things together, I don't know if you could make the Ohio State/Michigan game any more special, but I think when you mention that football team and what they mean to our program and what they meant to our country, it just adds a little bit more.
Honoring the 1942 team might not register with the fans, but the team is definitely fired up about it. Tressel assigned each player a member of the '42 team to study. It was almost like a school project. They researched the player and reported back with their findings. The 1942 Buckeyes were Ohio State's first squad to win the national championship. They finished 9-1 with the lone loss coming to Wisconsin.
The team had several legends on it. Paul Brown was the head coach, Les Horvath was the quarterback, Gene Fekete was at fullback and Charles Csuri (Team MVP) was a tackle. Csuri received the Bronze Star for his heroism at the Battle of the Bulge. The helmets OSU will wear this weekend feature the Bronze Star with Csuri's initials. Along with the helmets, the team will wear throwback uniforms to honor the 1942 team.
REPORTER: How do you go about preparing for and simulating Denard Robinson in practice this week? Will you use a running back at all back there with him or do you just put one of your quarterbacks back there?
COACH TRESSEL: It's impossible to simulate him because there's no one like him, so I'm sure we'll do a variety of things. I'm sure Kenny Guiton will be part of it. We'll have Joe Bauserman in there doing part of it. I'm sure we'll get some of the wideouts in there doing part of it, the running backs. It's a tremendous challenge because it's -- it gives you all of the problems that a wildcat offense gives you with a great running back back there, but along with it, it has all of the passing problems. So I think you've got to work on them maybe independent of one another, but knowing on Saturday they won't be independent and it will be a great challenge.
First off, I don't really understand why Joe Bauseman will be involved in the simulation of Denard Robinson but whatever. I do agree with Tressel that it's impossible to simulate a player like Robinson. Kenny Guiton should help, but he is not Denard Robinson. His running and throwing combination is clearly unmatched in college football today. Michigan will score points Saturday. I don't really think there is much doubt about that. Robinson hasn't been spectacular against good teams, but he will be efficient enough to lead three or four touchdown drives. Ohio State will be prepared enough to effectively contain him.
REPORTER: It seems like you came in with that compartment and emphasis on the game, could you ever have envisioned a chance to go nine out of 10 against them?
COACH TRESSEL: Well, if you've grown up around Ohio or Michigan or even in the Big Ten and paid attention to football at all, you could not have an understanding and you also know that any of the games you won or lost before have nothing to do with the game you're ready to play, so, no, I don't -- I mean, you already had the answer to the question on an old tape probably. What's important is this game. You know, that's true. It's real.
It is unbelievable that Tressel is 7-1. Most people knew he'd do OK at Ohio State, but who would have ever believed the way he has dominated Michigan, especially coming off the John Cooper Era? I still say Jim Harbaugh will flip the rivalry back to Michigan if they hire him. He is the real deal.
REPORTER: When you played Oregon, people looked at their offense and you guys kept the ball for 43 minutes in that game. I think a lot of people look at this game in a similar light. They're obviously explosive, but do you look at it too that keeping the ball is as important as anything else on Saturday?
COACH TRESSEL: The interesting thing about Michigan or Oregon is the least of what they worry about is time of possession because they score so fast. So I don't know that the time of possession thing is that critical. Now, would I like to keep the ball 43 minutes? I'll take that in a heartbeat, but we've got to win each play. We've got to win each series. We've got to do whatever we need to do offensively and defensively and special teams and there will be a lot of highs and lows in the game. There will be a lot of adversities. There will be some moments where you think it's going okay, but you better play the next play and that's what's neat about this game.
One point Tressel makes that I agree with is teams that score a lot don't care about time of possession. However, the only time they don't care is when they are scoring. I'm sure Oregon was very concerned about TOP in the Rose Bowl. Ohio State was shutting them down. The same thing can be said for Michigan this season. And guess what? They will want the ball a lot Saturday. I don't see any scenario in which Ohio State doesn't score often. The TOP will be really interesting to see Saturday because chances are Ohio State will score quickly on most of their drives.
REPORTER: Are you expecting Christian Bryant in action this Saturday?
COACH TRESSEL: I don't check the Twitters too close since I don't have one. What is it? Do I have a Twitter? Where do you get a Twitter? Twitter.com, okay. How much is it? Free? Oh. No, I wouldn't expect that. He'll be back maybe after he goes home for Thanksgiving for the game, but he's not going to be playing in the game, unless there's something I don't know. I didn't see that on the medical report that -- although Doug Calland did say that this is the easiest week of the year in the training room, all of a sudden everybody's ready, so maybe he is ready. He's going to have to hurry to beat some of those other guys out though.
There was a lot of TresseSpeak in his response, but I doubt if Bryant is back. Unless he is 110 percent and there is no rush of re-injury, I don't even see the point of him playing, other than it's the Michigan game and he probably wants to. Tressel was trying to be funny with his referene to Calland, but I'm sure there is some truth to it as well. You know everyone wants to suit up for this game.
REPORTER: How big a game do you think this will be for Dane being a senior, his last game here?
COACH TRESSEL: Yeah, Dane is a deep guy and he's a very aware guy and you could see -- I remember him sitting down in my office in March just shaking his head that there's no way he's a senior and he wants to absorb every second he can out of something, whether he's sitting in a class or sitting in a minute or he's in the weight room or the practice field, he is a motivated guy that he wants to get everything out of that body of his, that game of his, that experience of his, his academic experience, he's just -- so it will be a big deal to him. I mean, those guys that didn't redshirt, it really went fast because, you know, most of them didn't play tons. They might have played part of the time, and then all of a sudden they found themselves as the returning guy. I'm sure it will be an emotional time for him and he'll need to go out and get whacked a couple times, but he'll be immersed in the moment, but he'll want that clock to never end. That's just the way he is.
Dane has a knack for making the big play and playing well in the big games. I would be surprised if he didn't have at least one touchdown and 90-100 yards receiving. I can still remember when Sanzenbacher committed to Ohio State. I thought for sure he would never play. Wrong. The guy has been a star and one of the surest-handed receivers Ohio State has ever had. The Anthony Gonzalez comparisons are endless.
I think Dane will definitely get drafted and be a good slot/third receiver in the NFL. If Brian Hartline is as good as he is, Dane can/will be too. He is a hard worker, smart and catches everything. That's a combination coaches in the NFL love. He would be a perfect fit in Indianapolis or New England.
He has also been a good leader. Obviously he's a captain, but players are always talking about his leadership qualities and how well he is in the receiver meetings.
REPORTER: What are your earliest recollections of this game? I know your dad as a coach --
COACH TRESSEL: Never was at an Ohio State /Michigan game until I coached here. Tickets are hard. And they didn't have ebay back then, I don't think, but we always watched it. I mean, it was "The Game." You felt like you were part of it, just like everyone does now. I don't know at what age I first remember that, but I guess the era that I remember the most is the Rex Kern era and then beyond. Just one of those special weekends as I've mentioned many times, my dad was pretty busy. We didn't see him much from August until the Ohio State /Michigan game and we got to sit and have a couple hours with him, which is when you don't get much and you get a little bit, it's special.
I was surprised Tressel never attended an Ohio State-Michigan game until he was an assistant at OSU in the '80s. I guess he coached his whole life, though. As for the rest of his answer, I couldn't agree more. Anyone who has been a part of the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry has a deep appreciation of what they are seeing. I've been to 11 Ohio State-Michigan games and still get excited every year the week of the game arrives. The entire week is special. You can tell something big is about to take place. It has been that way for 70 years and will continue to be that way for hundreds more.
REPORTER: How did Mike Adams do in his battle with Clayborn?
COACH TRESSEL: Mike did a great job. Mike graded a winning performance. There were one or two times that Clayborn flushed us, but, no, Mike Adams played a good football game. Jim Bollman thinks he may have done as good or better a job than anyone did against Clayborn. And Mike has gotten better as time has gone on. He's a good football player and I think Justin's been good for him, with a veteran right next to him, but I thought he did a good job against Clayborn.
In my opinion, Mike Adams has been the most improved player on the team this season. He has been a big part of the offensive line's success. Heading into the season, it wasn't even certain he would start and the expectations weren't too great for him to be a plus on the line. I thought his match up with Clayborn would be a glaring weakness Saturday. I was definitely wrong about that. Like Tressel said, he more than held his own. The OLine should have no problem handling Michigan's porous defense. Wisconsin ran on 33 of 34 plays in the second half and had great success. Expect big stats from the Buckeye offense Saturday.
The "and so forth" count: One. Tressel is clearly focused on Michigan....and it's only Monday.