Ohio State Has “Laser Lights” on Michigan with The Game on The Horizon

By James Grega on November 18, 2017 at 9:21 pm
J.T. Barrett

Ohio State's 52-14 win over Illinois on Saturday night meant the Buckeyes clinched their first Big Ten East crown in three years, and an appearance in the Big Ten title game Dec. 2. 

Urban Meyer's thoughts, though, lay elsewhere.

The Buckeyes head coach said he enjoyed a moment with his team in the postgame locker room – especially because of Senior Day – before turning his attention to Michigan. 

"It's rivalry week," Meyer said. "It's officially started."

Despite claiming the Big Ten East crown for the first time since 2014, the focus for the Buckeyes was not on earning a spot in Indianapolis, or really even defeating a conference opponent by 38 points. 

Quarterback J.T. Barrett, who played his final game in Ohio Stadium on Saturday, said the Buckeyes are not concerned with postseason play as a trip to Ann Arbor draws closer. 

“It’s almost like we’re looking past the greatest rivalry in sports. We got The Team Up North next week, and we got to, everything has to be focused and locked in to go beat The Team Up North. All the other stuff right now really doesn’t matter, because at the end of the day, you come to Ohio State for certain things," Barrett said. "Play for a Big Ten championship, national championship is cool, but the bottom line is, when you play The Team Up North, you go out there to win.”

Win is all Barrett, and Ohio State's entire senior class, has done against Michigan. The Buckeyes have not lost a game to the Wolverines since 2011, when Ohio State's current fifth-year seniors were juniors in high school. 

Defensive end Tyquan Lewis, who also played his final home game on Saturday, said he wasn't as concerned with celebrating his final win in Ohio Stadium as he was preparing for The Game. 

"Everything has to be focused and locked in to go beat The Team Up North."– J.T. Barrett

“I’ll probably watch a little film tonight," Lewis said. 

Starting Sunday morning, the feel around Columbus – especially in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center – begins to change. Meyer has been known for his motivation tactics during the week leading up to the game, especially playing a certain song that has been beaten into the heads of Ohio State players since his arrival in 2012. 

"Tomorrow when we have practice in the afternoon, I am pretty sure we are going to hear Coach Meyer's theme song for this game; Time For War," Ohio State wide receiver Parris Campbell said. "It is literally played from the time you walk in the Woody, to the time you walk out. Everything is going to be revved up for sure."

While the Ohio State players know by now what the intensity around the program is like for rivalry week, there are a number of coaches on the Buckeyes' staff that might not. 

With Luke Fickell gone, there isn't one assistant coach on Ohio State's coaching staff that has playing experience in The Game and some who have yet to coach in it. Offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, quarterbacks coach Ryan Day and linebackers coach Bill Davis have yet to coach in the rivalry game against the Wolverines. Meyer said he is going to make a point to get across the importance of the rivalry with his assistants Sunday when the team reports back for practice. 

"I'm going to evaluate that on Sunday, talk to our staff. I have some coaches that have never coached in this game either. So we have to coach the coaches through it," Meyer said. "And the facility changes tomorrow, everything changes."

To say Ohio State didn't take any time to celebrate the win against Illinois on Saturday probably wouldn't be fair, even if it was just for a few minutes. For most of Ohio State's roster, the experience of playing at Lucas Oil Stadium is something they have yet to experience. 

However, Meyer said the moment to enjoy the win happened in the postgame locker room and the focus is now on the Wolverines. 

"We did celebrate it for a quick minute. And then it's over," Meyer said of the Illinois win. "Now it's time to put our laser lights on our rival."

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