There may not be a BCS Championship on the line, and Ohio State’s chances for a share of the Big Ten Championship depend as much on Michigan State as they do on Tyrelle Pryor, but today’s OSU-Michigan game is still a high stakes game:
For the ninth straight season, Michigan-Ohio State will directly impact the Big Ten race. With a win, the Buckeyes will clinch at least a share of their fourth straight conference title, making them the first team to accomplish that feat since Michigan did it from 1988-92. Ohio State also needs a win to put themselves in line for a sixth BCS berth in eight years under Jim Tressel. A Buckeyes’ victory and a Michigan State win over Penn State later in the day will send Ohio State to the Rose Bowl. If the Nittany Lions prevail on their home turf, they’re headed to Pasadena. If OSU were to lose, it would fall to 9-3 and likely be headed for a New Year’s Day bowl game — and there’s no denying a defeat, especially against an opponent that lost to Toledo at home, would do further damage to an already battered reputation.
But Tressel isn’t looking at Michigan as a team with just two Big Ten wins — he’s focused on the rivalry, and nothing else.
“Ohio State vs. Michigan trumps everything,” Tressel said. “It trumps your record. It trumps whether it’s dangerous or you don’t have a chance or any of those kinds of things. It trumps all things because it’s the Ohio State-Michigan game. And I would like to think our guys understand that.”
Tressel has had a penchant for getting his team ready for Michigan, winning six of the last seven in the series. In fact, no current Michigan player has ever beaten Ohio State. It’s that swing in the rivalry that was a major reason why Lloyd Carr resigned a year ago and why the Wolverines brought Rich Rodriguez in from West Virginia.
It’s been a historically bad debut season for Rodriguez in Ann Arbor, with the Wolverines missing out on a bowl game for the first time in 33 years. In transitioning to the spread that RichRod used so successfully with the Mountaineers, Michigan is tied for 87th nationally in scoring offense (21.4 points per game) and 105th in total offense (299.2 yards a game).
“This isn’t Michigan, this is like Michigan Tech,” Wolverines’ Heisman winner Desmond Howard said on a Columbus radio show earlier this week. “They’ve improved, but not to where they should be at this point by any stretch of the imagination.”
But beating Ohio State would immediately help to ease the pain of this humbling season and it would be an upset that could look awfully familiar to Tressel.
Go Buckeyes !