When Ohio State and Michigan take the field on Saturday, the majority of the Wolverine football players will know the deep and jagged sting of losing this game.
The wounds never truly heal. The scars are raised and angry, especially this week.
Michigan can draw on that pain in order to drive them forward. The Buckeyes, on the other hand, aren’t so unfortunate.
To know the pain of a loss in this game, most Michigan players simply need to close their eyes and think back to last year. For Ohio State, however, there are no players on the team who know what it is like to lose this game.
They have never experienced such pain.
To understand it better, they would have to ask past Buckeyes.
One of those past players who did his part to explain the pain was former OSU defensive coordinator Luke Fickell.
“Last year he talked about it,” defensive end Jalyn Holmes said. “He has lost to them before and I don’t want to have that feeling at all. I feel like that’s one of my top fears in life is to lose to them, so I’m going to do my best to not have that happen.”
Center Billy Price has heard about it from former Buckeye right tackle Kirk Barton.
“I think he might be the only one,” Price recalled. “Obviously it’s terrible. It’s more than just a loss itself. It’s going against your arch rival. That feeling anytime you lose a game is a bad feeling, but losing that game – the premier game of the season – it’s a bad feeling.”
At Michigan, you can’t toss a winged helmet without hitting somebody who knows the feeling of losing this game. At Ohio State, meanwhile, there is not a single player on the roster who knows that pain.
Some have never even talked to anybody who has ever lost to Michigan.
“No I haven’t. But what I do know is you don’t want to lose this game,” receiver Terry McLaurin said. “It’s not just, ‘Oh it’s 2017, get them next time.’ It’s something you’ll remember 40 years down the line. Neither side, you don’t want to lose this game.”
Those who have lost it, never want to have that experience again.
Those who have never lost, have seen the pain in those who have, and they don’t ever want to experience it first hand.
There is plenty of incentive for both sides, and you can expect that incentive to drive both teams as far as they are willing to go on Saturday.