Ann Arbor — For the third straight year, Michigan is a double-digit underdog to Ohio State in what’s supposed to be “The Game.”
It’s a statement that confirms just how far apart these two programs are right now.
The eighth-ranked Buckeyes (10-1, 6-1 Big Ten) are favored by 17 points over U-M (7-4, 3-4) in Saturday’s game in Columbus.
Ohio State was a 20 1/2-point favorite two years ago when it won at home, 42-7, in Rich Rodriguez’s first year with the Wolverines. OSU was an 11-point favorite last year and won, 21-10, in Ann Arbor.
“What do I think about it? Nothing,” Rodriguez said of being such heavy underdogs. “How does it affect my life? It doesn’t. My preparation? Nothing.
“I want to get to the point where we’re 18-point favorites in every game. How ’bout that? I want us to get to that point.”
With one of the Big Ten’s tiebreakers for a Rose Bowl bid being the BCS standings, Ohio State could be in the mood to try to run up the score to impress the voters.
“We’re not going to get run off the field,” Martin promised. “That’s not going to happen. We won’t allow that to happen.”
It’s Michigan-Ohio State week, so you do everything you can to get on the field.
Michigan defensive end Craig Roh is a perfect example. He hadn’t been cleared to play by the medical staff as of early Monday afternoon after suffering from concussion-like symptoms in Saturday’s loss to Wisconsin.
“I’m playing this week, no matter what,” Roh said adamantly. “I had a little head trauma. The trainers didn’t clear me for the second half. It doesn’t matter this week because I’m going to be playing.”
Rodriguez said around 20 players, including those who have suffered season-ending injuries, were held out of practice after facing a physical Wisconsin team.
Running back Vincent Smith also was suffering from concussion-like symptoms. Receiver Darryl Stonum (ankle) and return specialist Jeremy Gallon (shoulder) are questionable for the Ohio State game. Nose tackle Mike Martin is expected to try to play again despite an ongoing ankle injury
“I’m optimistic that most of the guys that had issues on Saturday will be back,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez won’t forget the team’s last trip to Columbus.
“I saw a couple of elderly women, probably in their late ’60s, give us the middle-finger salute,” he said.
“But I’d seen that before,” Rodriguez added, referring to when he coached West Virginia. “Playing at Pitt, we saw whole families of them.”
… Asked to respond to a sideline report during the telecast that Wisconsin players complained about Michigan players taking cheap shots, Rodriguez said: “Really? That’s the first time I’ve heard it. Playing dirty? That’s funny. We got penalized one time, right? We had one penalty. Must have been a slow moment, looking for something controversial.”
… ESPN cameras caught a bizarre exchange with defensive coordinator Greg Robinson shoving a stuffed animal in linebacker Kenny Demens’ face as Demens came off the field.
The players weren’t sharing any details about the stuffed animal during Monday’s news conference.
“That’s a secret,” Martin said. “That’s the defense’s thing. I can’t talk about it. It’s got to stay in our room.”