There's Rivalry in the Air at the Woody
By Rob Ogden
No need to check the schedule, there's a special feeling around the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. Everybody knows it's Michigan week.
Players and coaches alike said they can sense it. Something about this week is just different.
"Every year when this week rolls around, everybody ratchets it up a notch," senior left tackle Jack Mewhort said. "You can kind of feel it in the air around here."
The intensity starts at the top, with coach Urban Meyer, who apologized Monday when accidentally using the word "Michigan" when referring to the Buckeyes' northern rivals.
"It is different. It's not just another game. It's not. Our players know that," Meyer said. "Does that mean we put less value on Indiana or less value on the following week coming up? I didn't say that. But there is an extra pep in the step. We officially started working the game a day earlier than we normally do, and they get it. Our players get it."
Meyer said he's been averse to the Wolverines since growing up in Ashtabula, Ohio in the 1970's. Though it wasn't until he became a graduate assistant at Ohio State in 1986 that Meyer really began to comprehend the magnitude of "The Game."
"I grew up in the ten year war, and I learned to dislike Michigan at a very young age," he said. "But you never really appreciate it until you're behind the walls here and find out how serious it is."
Meyer said the moment he really started to appreciate the rivalry was when, as a 21-year-old graduate assistant, he drove past Lincoln and Morrill Towers and saw "Muck Fichigan" written on bed sheets hanging out of a window.
27 years and 12 Ohio State series victories later, Meyer is now trying to make sure his team has the same appreciation for the game that he does.
"You walk in our facility and you see all kinds of banners, music playing, everything reminding us and pumping us up," senior center Corey Linsley said. "Not that we need it, but it’s definitely there just as a backup plan I guess. The environment is completely different. It’s kind of a cliché at this point to say it, but it is 100 percent true, it is a different week this week."
Minutes had passed since Ohio State defeated Indiana 42-14 on Saturday, and Meyer had already started thinking about Michigan.
By Sunday, Mewhort said, the coach had completely moved on from the senior day win.
"I think he flipped a switch right after the game," Mewhort said. "He told us Sunday this victory has been enjoyed and it's a big week for us and we have to start moving forward. We started preparing Sunday afternoon for this one because I think we all realize how huge of a week this is."
The importance Meyer places on rivalry games is nothing new to the 12-year head coach. While at Utah from 2003-to-2004, Meyer mandated that players refer to BYU as "That team down South."
He did the same at Florida, where he was from 2005-to-2010, referring to Florida State as "That team out West."
Meyer likely derived those monikers from his time at Ohio State, when he was on the sideline for a pair of games against "That team up North."
At those three stops, Meyer is 8-1 as head coach against his main rival, with his one loss coming in his final year at Florida. Though he did lose to Michigan in the Capital One Bowl following the 2007 season.
Junior defensive tackle Mike Bennett, or ike Bennett as he is now temporally known as on Twitter, said the team feeds off of its coach's intensity.
"There is a dislike for that team up north. I think every guy gets a little bit of motivation for that and coach Meyer gets extra motivation for that," Bennett said. "When he gets that feeling, I think it filters down to us quite a bit.”
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