Monday marked the beginning of Michigan Week for Ohio State football, but not the beginning of preparations for the Wolverines — at least in a general sense.
Here are five things to know from coach Urban Meyer’s meeting with the media at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center:
1. Meyer and the Buckeyes think about Michigan much more than one week out of the year
Following the lead of predecessor Jim Tressel, Meyer makes sure Michigan stands out from Ohio State’s opponents while trying to avoid putting the Wolverines on a pedestal.
“This rivalry is not a one-week deal,” said Meyer, whose Ohio State teams are 5-0 against Michigan. “It’s, ‘Hey, let’s get this thing going.’ And I learned that from Woody Hayes, from Earle Bruce, from Jim Tressel. I just think it’s in your blood. It’s in your DNA.”
While those former coaches set an example, current strength and conditioning director Mickey Marotti plays a big role now.
“I would say darned near every day you’re here you get reminded of the game, from ‘Coach Mick’ in the offseason to myself in spring ball and training camp, we have periods devoted to this game during practice. And I mean you would have to be, something wrong with you not to figure this one out.”
2. Michigan will be on top of its game, Meyer says
The 8-3 Wolverines enter the week having been humbled at Wisconsin.
The fifth-ranked Badgers won 24-10, outgaining the UM 182-58 on the ground and knocking Michigan quarterback Brandon Peters out of the game.
The Ohio State-Michigan game has a way of helping players put their troubles behind them, though.
“That’s the history of this game,” Meyer said. “Both teams play their best.”
3. Watch the way the “big uglies” battle
The 114th edition of The Game will, like many of them, include a big focus on the matchups in the trenches.
Ohio State is first in the Big Ten in rushing while Michigan is third. The defenses are fourth and fifth, respectively, in stopping the run.
Meyer noted Michigan defensive linemen Rashan Gary and Maurice Hurst are “both very highly draftable NFL players.”
The Buckeyes running game has really been rolling the last two weeks, piling up 335 yards against a stout Michigan State defense and 325 on one from Illinois that ranks last in the conference.
After being humbled by Penn State on Oct. 21, Michigan appeared to recommit to the running game, posting back-to-back 300-yard outings against Rutgers and Minnesota before gaining 160 on the ground against Maryland on Nov. 11.
However, Michigan averaged just 1.6 yards per carry against a Wisconsin defense that is among the best in the country.
4. What’s required in power running game?
It wasn’t all serious football talk. Meyer laughed at himself while describing what he looks for in an interior offensive lineman to make his power running game go.
“We want the big wide (butt) — probably shouldn’t say that — but to move defensive linemen you need to have the big guards in this offense,” Meyer said. “And zone schemes, that’s a prerequisite — be powerful coming off the ball.”
5. No wrinkles needed
Hayes was reputed to have taken time out of the season — when the Buckeyes were facing a doormat like Northwestern, the legends go — to prepare for Michigan, and Tressel was well-known for unveiling a new concept or two against the Wolverines every year.
Meyer said he doesn’t expect any surprises though.
“You can’t now. This conference — we’re in the East side of arguably the toughest conference in America. So just go play the game, try to go win. I don’t think — I heard days in the past where you saved the little eight and the big two. Those days are done.”