Records, Rankings Thrown Out When Ohio State, Michigan Meet

By Tim Shoemaker on November 25, 2014 at 8:35 am
Ohio State, Michigan meet Saturday

Joshua Perry doesn't even know when the last time was he used the word "Michigan."

"A little while ago. Couldn't tell you. Not since I've been here," Ohio State's junior linebacker said Monday.

Ask any other player or coach the same question and you'll likely get a similar response. Anytime the Wolverines are brought up at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, it's "That Team Up North" or "our rivals."

But that doesn't mean head coach Urban Meyer and his sixth-ranked Buckeyes don't have respect for the Michigan program. They know it will give its best effort Saturday.

"There are great players there," Meyer said. "Their personnel will play their very best against us and that happened — that was as obvious as you can be last year."

Meyer, of course, was alluding to Ohio State's 42-41 win where the Buckeyes needed an interception by Tyvis Powell on a Michigan two-point conversion attempt to seal the game and remain unbeaten.

Ohio State entered that game as a two-touchdown favorite. This year, playing at home, the Buckeyes are even larger favorites — expected to win by three scores. But none of that really matters to Ohio State, which is well aware the Wolverines are fully capable of playing the role of spoiler.

"We came out victorious, but it came down to the last play," Ohio State senior cornerback Doran Grant said. "In this game, you can’t underestimate anybody. Regardless of how they play, you’ve got to be ready.”

Because if you don't come ready, an upset can happen. History has shown that.

In 1987, then-Ohio State head coach Earle Bruce was fired just days before the Buckeyes played Michigan. Ohio State was just 5-4-1 on the season, but rallied around its coach and pulled off a 23-20 upset of the heavily-favored Wolverines.

In 1995 and 1996, Ohio State entered as the favorites. But behind Tim Biakabutuka's 313-yard performance in '95, Michigan pulled off a 31-23 upset. In 1996 the Wolverines stunned the Buckeyes again, this time at Ohio Stadium, 13-9.

In 2004, Michigan was ranked No. 7 in the country when it traveled to Columbus to face the unranked Buckeyes. But behind Troy Smith's 386 yards of total offense and three touchdowns, Ohio State shocked the Wolverines, 37-21.

"It's always going to mean everything and that's the great thing about this game," Perry said. "One team could not have won a game all year and the other one could be undefeated but you never know what's going to come out the gate. That's why you play it, that's why you enjoy it and that's why you prepare."

For Ohio State, though, there's a little bit of added importance. The Buckeyes are very much alive for one of the four spots in the first-ever College Football Playoff. A loss to a 5-6 Michigan team which needs a win to just become bowl eligible would end that dream.

"You need to make sure that you're focused on what's going on now," Ohio State senior defensive tackle Michael Bennett said. "If you're off thinking about something else mid-game, things aren't going to turn out well."

Ohio State was able to narrowly avoid the stunning upset a season ago in Ann Arbor. One year later, in front of its home crowd on Senior Day, it will try to avoid one again.

And with a Big Ten championship still to play for and a possible berth in the College Football Playoff, the importance of Saturday's game against Michigan has not been lost.

"This is not another game," Meyer said. "This is The Game."

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