Michigan-Ohio St. Preview

Each year, the players and coaches from Michigan and Ohio State

talk about how much they respect each other, how much they have in

common and how pure their rivalry is.

Truth be told, the two sides can’t even agree on who’s got the

most to win and lose in Saturday’s 107th showdown.

No. 8 Ohio State has a stadium full of things on the line,

including a share of a record-tying sixth straight Big Ten title

and a spot in a Bowl Championship Series bowl.

The Buckeyes say the Wolverines would like nothing better than

to ruin all of that for them.

”Just beating us would make those guys’ year,” Ohio State

linebacker Brian Rolle said Monday. ”That’d be like a national

championship for those guys.”

But that’s not even remotely close to being the case, Michigan

nose tackle Mike Martin said.

”For us, it’s not about Ohio State – it’s about us and what we

do,” he said. ”We don’t go into this game to spoil Ohio State’s

season. It’s all about us. We’re playing for each other and doing

what we can and what we can control.”

Despite everything resting on the outcome – and its impact on

untold other teams – the bottom line for both sides is that they

just plain don’t like losing to the other guys.

And that’s motivation enough.

”To say that they have more at stake than us, when you look at

it from bowl perspective and Big Ten championship – sure,”

Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said on Monday. ”To say it’s less

important, no. Never.”

The Buckeyes enter the storied grudge match needing a win to

match the mark of six straight conference titles won by Woody

Hayes’ Ohio State teams of 1972-77. Heading into the final weekend

of conference play, the Buckeyes are in lockstep with Michigan

State and Wisconsin, with all three teams 10-1 overall and 6-1 in

the Big Ten.

Win, and Ohio State would likely be in the running for a BCS

berth – either a return trip to the Rose Bowl, should Wisconsin

lose at home to Northwestern, or possibly an at-large bid to the

Sugar or Orange bowls.

Lose and the Buckeyes could sag all the way to third in the

conference and would end up out of the BCS mix for the first time

since 2004.

The Buckeyes are also hoping to add to their mastery of their

chief rivals. They’ve won the last six meetings, their longest

string of success ever in the series.

Some fans say that ”The Game” has lost some of its luster in

recent years because of the Buckeyes’ domination. They say that for

it to remain a true rivalry, one team can’t win every time.

But the alternative is almost unthinkable to Ohio State.

”Already it means so much to us that we don’t need to lose a

game to remember how bad it hurts,” said defensive lineman Dexter

Larimore.

Michigan (7-4, 3-4) is heading to a bowl game for the first time

in Rodriguez’s three years in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines, led by

multi-threat quarterback Denard Robinson, are hoping for a victory

to prove they’ve climbed out of the dark hole they were in the past

couple of years and are headed for a brighter future.

A signature win couldn’t come against anyone better than the

Buckeyes.

”I’ve got respect for them,” Robinson said. ”But I don’t like

them.”

The feeling is mutual. Ohio State has no other major rival

besides Michigan. But the Wolverines also circle Michigan State and

Notre Dame on their calendars each season.

So this is a special week for players and fans to embrace their

dislike of the other team.

”I don’t hate them, but I don’t like them either because of the

rivalry,” Ohio State cornerback Devon Torrence said. ”Michigan is

a great university and institution for college and college

football. They do a lot in terms of the whole college football

spectrum.

”I won’t say I hate them – but I really want to beat

them.”