|November 14th, 2006|
Wolverines, Buckeyes set for showdown info
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Archie Griffin has a guess why Michigan-Ohio State is the last game on each team's schedule.
"I knew that after some of those games I probably wouldn't be able to play the next week because the games were so physical," said the former Ohio State tailback and only two-time Heisman Trophy winner.
Another Michigan-Ohio State game arrives on Saturday. In a series where fans from the losing side walk around in a funk for days or weeks, this year's game could be particularly painful for those whose team ends up losing.
When the No. 1-ranked Buckeyes host No. 2 Michigan, all the teams are playing for is the inside track to a national championship, the top spot in the country and an outright Big Ten title - not to mention bragging rights for a whole year.
"You can feel the electricity and the energy," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said on Monday.
Players and coaches on both sides expressed relief that the big game - anticipated for so long - was now at hand and that the teams had not had a misstep along the way.
"We've played this game now, Michigan vs. Ohio State, for 102 years," Wolverines coach Lloyd Carr said. "To have this be the first time in over a century that both teams are ranked 1-2 ... It's a dream to not only coach in this rivalry, but to be able to play in a game like this certainly is very, very special."
Ohio State offensive guard T.J. Downing is the son of Walt Downing, a Michigan All-American lineman who went on to play in the NFL. T.J. grew up a Michigan fan and used to pretend he was Wolverines scatback Tim Biakabutuka - which must have been a sight, considering Downing is now a strapping 6-foot-4 and 305 pounds.
"Obviously, we always wanted to see the Buckeyes lose," said Downing, who grew up in the football hotbed of Canton, Ohio. "It was always cool following the Wolverines. They were a huge part of my growing up. I loved the success that they had in the '90s."
Since arriving at Ohio State, however, Downing has seen the Buckeyes dominate the series by winning four of the last five meetings.
"I'm glad that I've been able to bring an end to that (Michigan) success here in the 2000s, because this is my team," he said. "I bleed scarlet and gray and I would die for these guys in this locker room."
Tressel was the son of Baldwin-Wallace College football coach Lee Tressel and said he always looked forward to the Michigan-Ohio State game because his father's Division III team was usually done playing and the two could finally spend some time together.
"That used to be about the first time I saw my dad in the light of day," Tressel said.
Michigan offensive lineman Jake Long said he once attended an Ohio State game at Michigan Stadium.
"I went with one of my buddies, I think it was sophomore year in high school, and he actually wore a red coat," he said. "We were getting booed at and yelled at the whole game, so that wasn't cool."
Tressel said he and his staff almost go into a coccoon this week. But he said he recently heard from a fan who was using the game as an excuse to reconnect with his son.
"It's just a tremendous feeling to be a part of something that so many people are excited about and so many people count special," Tressel said. "I got an e-mail from a guy who said he's flying to Las Vegas to watch the game with his son because he couldn't get tickets to the game. He's flying home that night, but he just wants to be with his son. I can relate to that and it's special."