Does Championship Game Change Rivarly Game Dynamics?
By Rob Ogden
The Michigan-week clichés have always been the same every year: 'Give 110 percent.' 'Leave it all out on the field.'
This year, maybe it should be, 'Leave it all out on the field … but save a little for next week too.'
For the first time since 1942, Ohio State will play a game the week after the Michigan game when the Buckeyes face Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game Dec. 7.
Aside from maybe a bowl game, there's no game that matters more on Ohio State's schedule than the Michigan game, right?
Or is there?
Michigan is still Michigan and will always be Michigan. But never again will a Big Ten title be on the line against the Wolverines, at least not under the new format beginning in 2014.
Urban Meyer has made it clear that the Buckeyes' goal is to compete for championships in November. There isn't a championship to be won Saturday, the Leaders Division was locked up last weekend.
There is one to be fought for Dec. 7 in Indianapolis.
Is it actually possible the Buckeyes could do the unthinkable and look past THE game?
Photo by Dan Harker
Not happening, senior left tackle Jack Mewhort said. Not a chance.
“It’s a one-game season right now,” Mewhort said. “All we’re worried about is the one in front of us. It’s 'The Game', and that’s all we’re focused on right now. We’ll handle the other stuff when we get there, but right now there’s only one that matters.”
No Ohio State player has any experience dealing with this type of schedule, and they would be hard pressed to find any living former Buckeye that does, either.
So instead, they'll turn to their coach, who on three separate occasions has played a rival, then a conference championship game the following weekend.
Meyer was 2-1 in SEC Championship games at Florida, with each game following a win over rival Florida State.
"I don't want to say it's awful, but you talk about blowing out your staff and our players and then throwing finals week and those type of things that our players are dealing with right now," Meyer said. "So our focus is on this one, but we know what's coming.
Photo by Dan Harker
"You have to be so disciplined in the way you practice, and I'm going to warn our coaches and warning them myself about sleep, taking care of yourself, because these next two weeks are going to be brutal."
Brutal, because "The Game" can have a taxing affect on the body, junior defensive tackle Michael Bennett said.
“Every game is a hard hitting game. But I think guys try to bring a little bit extra to this game on both sides," he said.
As far as being able to withstand the physical toll the Michigan game will take, senior safety C.J. Barnett said he doesn't think it will be an issue.
"We’re young guys. 22, 21, 20 years old," he said. "We’ll be alright."
The 1942 Buckeyes handled the task just fine.
The No. 5 Buckeyes, led by legendary coach Paul Brown, beat No. 4 Michigan 21-7 on Nov. 21 then beat Iowa Pre-Flight 41-12 seven days later.
Twice since 1935 has Michigan played a game following the Ohio State game, and both times against Hawaii.
The Wolverines traveled to Honolulu following games against the Buckeyes in 1986 and in 1998, and came away with victories both times.
The No. 11 Spartans likely present a tougher task. Still, the Buckeyes remain intent on beating their rival.
"We’re focused on this week, like we are every year," Bennett said. "Regardless of our record or their record, it doesn’t matter whatever is after this. You have to win this game.”
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