At Ohio State, it’s known as “Beat Michigan Week.” If you’re on campus, you’ll see that very message on CABS buses, you’ll hear the roar – hopefully – from Mirror Lake on Tuesday night and you’ll notice that just about every “m” on campus signage has been covered with scarlet tape.
But in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, you’re simply not allowed to say the word “Michigan.” It is That Team Up North, a cardinal sin that head coach Urban Meyer broke when meeting with the media Monday (_eeting with the _edia _onday?).
"I grew up in the Ten-Year War,” Meyer said. “I learned to dislike Michigan at a very young age, but you never truly appreciate (the rivalry) until you're behind the walls here and see how serious it really is.”
When told by the next questioner that he had slipped up and said Michigan, something that often results in a 10 pushup fine at OSU, Meyer looked shocked.
"I did? Wow. I apologize,” he said.
Meyer later said they go a little over the top around the WHAC when it comes to the rivalry, and why not? It’s the best in sports according to many, and Meyer said the undefeated and third-ranked Buckeyes started their prep for The Game a day earlier than usual after Saturday’s 42-14 Senior Day victory vs. Indiana.
The Buckeyes will try to cut into Michigan’s all-time 58-45-6 lead in the series, one Ohio State has closed in recent years by winning 10 of the last 12 contests in the rivalry. On the other side of the field, the Wolverines enter at 7-4 overall, 3-4 in the league and coming off a Saturday loss at Iowa, but Meyer does not expect that to bring the Wolverines down.
He pointed to a physical, well-coached defense under Greg Mattison that the Wolverines can hang their hats on, while also noting the series of upsets in the rivalry is nothing to sneeze at.
"Teams that care about rivalries, it doesn't matter,” said Meyer, who will be coaching in his first game in Ann Arbor since 1987, when he was a graduate assistant at OSU. “We'll get their best game."
The Buckeyes should also have a few more players available to go in The Game – which generally does wonders for a player’s healing powers. Starting middle linebacker Curtis Grant has missed the last two games (back, ankle) but should be good to go, Meyer said, while reserve cornerback Armani Reeves – who has been out the last three halves – is also expected to return. In addition, starting corner Doran Grant, who missed the second half vs. Indiana as mostly a precautionary measure after taking a hard hit, is expected to be full-go and practices Sunday.
In other news, Ryan Shazier was chosen as Big Ten defensive player of the week on Monday, a record-tying honor for the junior from Florida. He now has five such honors in his career and three this year, both of which tie league records, and he certainly deserved this week’s choice after becoming the first Buckeye since 2004 with 20 tackles in a game while also tying a school mark with five TFL on Saturday vs. Indiana.
"He used to always overrun plays. Now he's falling back on plays,” pointing specifically to how Shazier has started to attack zone read plays. "His fundamentals of tackling are what have made him the player that he is right now."
He was also the Buckeyes’ co-defensive player of the week, Meyer said, as he outlined the team’s champions for the game. He was joined on the defensive side of the ball by Michael Bennett – who moved further inside than usual vs. the Hoosiers, even lining up as a 0-technique at the start of the game – while other champions were Bradley Roby and Joey Bosa.
On the offensive side, Meyer raved about quarterback Braxton Miller, who he said played one of his best games vs. Indiana “as a quarterback” and also raved about one third-down pass by Miller to Jeff Heuerman as his best throw at OSU.
Miller was joined as co-offensive player of the week by center Corey Linsley, while other offensive champions included Andrew Norwell, Taylor Decker, Jeff Heuerman, Devin Smith, Chris Fields and the 1,000-yard man himself, Carlos Hyde.
On special teams, the player of the week was Vonn Bell, while Meyer also praised OSU’s defensive staff for its best game plan of the year in helping keep the high-powered Hoosiers offense to 14 points.
But that, of course, is in the past as of Saturday night at 7 p.m. Now, it’s Michigan week, and an entire year of preparation comes down to one game – the only one left showing on the schedule in the team meeting room, which was covered with white paper but for one entry: “Nov. 30 THAT TEAM UP NORTH.”
“It’s not just another game,” Meyer said. “It’s not.”
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