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Upset-minded Rockets take on No. 15 Ohio State

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)

Usually, Ohio State's players and coaches don't profess to paying any attention at all to other teams and other games. Whether they do or not, at least publicly they say it's more important to focus on themselves and their own concerns.

Not this week, apparently.

The Toledo Rockets and their giant-killer alter ego have apparently gotten the Buckeyes' attention.

Again and again, the Buckeyes have mentioned the fact that the Rockets have a history of beating up on far more acclaimed programs, those from the Big Ten in particular.

''All you've got to do is look at 2008 and (the Rockets) beat Michigan at Michigan, in 2009 they beat Colorado and in 2010, they beat Purdue,'' Ohio State interim coach Luke Fickell said this week.

Several Buckeyes also pointed out the Michigan upset at The Big House. Some went deeper and dredged up stunners dating to the Rockets winning at Penn State in 2000.

Even Toledo's coach is bringing up the past.

''This program has won a lot of big football games,'' said Tim Beckman, a former Ohio State assistant now in his third year with the Rockets.

Ohio State has gone 42-0-1 against in-state opponents since losing to Oberlin 7-6 in 1921. But the Buckeyes are a bit undermanned. Four top players are still suspended. And a fallout of the money-for-memorabilia scandal that rocked the program - and led to the forced resignation of Jim Tressel and the departure of three-year starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor to the NFL - is still in the air.

''We don't have the ability and the good fortune, maybe, to roll those helmets out there and think that we're just going to roll over somebody,'' Fickell said.

On top of that, the Rockets are good. They were picked to win the Mid-American Conference and had their way with overmatched New Hampshire, 58-22, on Sept. 1.

''They've beaten some pretty good D1 schools throughout the last three years,'' Ohio State offensive lineman J.B. Shugarts said. ''Their defense, they move around a lot, they run a lot of blitzes, they run a lot of stunts. We just have to get ready to play them. We can't take them lightly.''

Linebacker Etienne Sabino is of the same opinion.

''They're not going to be scared to play us,'' he said. ''They're not going to be awed to come into our stadium. They've been (in big stadiums) before. They beat Purdue last year. They've played big competition and they've won and they've performed, so we'd better be ready.''

The game features two interesting subplots.

First, both teams, which are 1-0, have even bigger games the following week. The Rockets, in perhaps the biggest game ever played at their Glass Bowl, host No. 4 Boise State on Sept. 16 in a nationally televised game. The Buckeyes take their talents to South Beach to play Miami on Sept. 17 in a showdown of two NCAA-scarred programs.

Second, both feature two-quarterback attacks. Austin Dantin and Terrance Owens split time for Toledo, with Joe Bauserman and Braxton Miller sharing the snaps at Ohio State.

The Rockets like to stretch the field vertically, going deep to open things up underneath and with the running game. The Buckeyes prefer to control things in the trenches and pick their spots to throw the ball.

Although four Ohio State players (last year's top rusher Dan Herron, top returning receiver DeVier Posey, starting left tackle Mike Adams and backup defensive lineman Solomon Thomas) are out, the Buckeyes welcome back four players who were suspended for the 42-0 victory over Akron in the opener (running back Jordan Hall, defensive backs Travis Howard and Corey Brown and linebacker Jordan Whiting).

As with any battle, there are some people caught in the middle.

Jack Mewhort, who'll start at left guard for the Buckeyes, is a Toledo native who grew up going to the Rockets' games with his family.

He's pretty sure what would happen if Ohio State were to finally lose to an in-state rival.

''I probably wouldn't hear the end of it - just from my family members back in Toledo,'' he said.

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Rusty Miller can be reached at http://twitter.com/rustymillerap

Tagged: Michigan, Ohio State, Toledo, Ohio, Dan Herron, Braxton Miller

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