Seniors Take Pride in Michigan Streak
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The 2011 season has been nothing like this senior class ever could have imagined when they signed on with Ohio State back in 2008.
Led by center Michael Brewster and quarterback Terrelle Pryor, this class had visions of national championships when they showed up in Columbus just four short years ago. They won three Big Ten championships and two BCS bowl games, but this season has been a shock to the system.
The Buckeyes have five losses for the first time since 2001 and they are in danger of finishing the regular season with a .500 winning percentage for the first time since the end of the John Cooper era.
“We’re in a situation a lot of guys on the team haven’t been in before. We lost five games in a season for the first time since I’ve been here,” said fourth-year junior Jake Stoneburner, who was a part of that 2008 recruiting class.
“Guys aren’t used to that. It’s a little different than what we’re used to. If I did the math right, I don’t think we’ve lost five games in my three years prior to this one.”
He was close. The Buckeyes were 33-6 over the last three seasons, and they have not lost more than two games in the same year since the ’08 season. That was Stoneburner’s freshman year. It was also Mike Brewster’s, who would like nothing more than to get a win against Michigan in his final regular season game at Ohio State.
“Regardless of what is going to happen after this season, getting this win at the Big House would be very satisfying,” Brewster said.
“This game means so much to the team and the coaches. It would be special.”
Brewster and his classmates were likely in eighth grade the last time Ohio State lost a game in their bitter rivalry with the school up north. The Buckeyes had already won five straight over Michigan by the time the 2008 class arrived in Columbus.
They certainly don’t want to be the first ones to lose to the Wolverines in nearly a decade.
“You don't want to be the ones to break the streak,” Brewster said Monday.
“You don't want to be that team. I've already been on the team that's not going to win the Big Ten championship for the first time in quite a while. If I can do anything to make this season right, it would be good to go ahead and continue the streak.”
It won’t be easy, certainly not as easy as the last three. Since their 14-3 win in Ann Arbor back in 2007, the Buckeyes have outscored the Wolverines 100-24 in their last three victories.
All of those came against former Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez, who was recently introduced as the new head coach at the University of Arizona. Rodriguez was replaced by former Michigan assistant Brady Hoke, and with Greg Mattison’s help, Hoke has the Wolverines on the verge of a 10-win season.
Michigan enters “The Game” as the prohibitive favorites for the first time in seven years after waxing Nebraska 45-17 last weekend in Michigan Stadium. Meanwhile, Ohio State is coming off back-to-back losses against Purdue and Penn State, which has led to an 8.5-point spread in favor of the Maize and Blue.
“We don't see ourselves as a big underdog,” Ohio State interim head coach Luke Fickell said this week.
“That's not the way we approach things. Whatever people want to say, we believe we've got a great football team. We believe we haven't performed as well as we could in the last several weeks, but that's what Saturday is for. We're going to continue to attack it that way and play with confidence.”
They haven’t had much of that this season. Ohio State is ranked at or near the bottom of the Big Ten in scoring offense, passing offense and total offense. They haven’t a staunch defensive group either. After finishing No. 5 in the country in scoring defense last season, they have dropped to fifth in the conference this year.
Shockingly, that is two spots behind the Michigan defense, which is allowing only 15.6 points per game this season. Led by Mattison—who left his job as the Baltimore Ravens’ defensive coordinator to return to Ann Arbor—the Wolverines are ranked sixth nationally in scoring defense this season.
Suddenly, all the pressure is on Ohio State and its anemic offense, but they aren’t going to come in scared against the Wolverines Saturday.
“We're more of a group who plays to win rather than playing not to lose,” senior left tackle Mike Adams said.
“We don't really think of it too much as pressure, just an opportunity to go out and continue the history that we've got going.”
And potentially erase the recent history they have working against them.
“At this point, we need to get this last win,” Brewster said.
“Because we can be forgiven for a 6-5 season to some point.”
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