At Ohio State, preparation for the Michigan game has become as much a part of the football program as the buckeye leaf stickers applied to the players’ helmets.
Workouts and practices both have periods named after the team up north.
The word “Michigan” is not permitted to be spoken, and it’s best not to show up to the football facilities decked out in blue.
And during the week leading up to the game, the speakers throughout the facilities are playing LL Cool J’s “It’s Time for War” on a loop. The players grow tired of it, but the Pavlovian response has been effective.
Urban Meyer actually improved upon Jim Tressel’s domination of the Wolverines by going 7-0 as the Buckeyes’ head coach. Clearly, everything that Meyer did in order to win the rivalry game worked.
Which is why it was so strange to see people asking Ryan Day last week at Big Ten Media Days if he had any plans to change the program’s approach to the Michigan game.
And when players were asking if things were the same under Day, the answers were a resounding yes.
“Yeah. It’s everything. You can’t lose that game,” senior safety Jordan Fuller said. “So yeah, we just have so much respect for them, and I know The Game at the November again is going to be another dogfight.”
The offseason focus has not changed. The workouts are just as difficult. The anger is as targeted as ever.
As planned, very little has changed around the Ohio State football program.
In fact, one of the only changes has been the music being played around the facilities, though senior defensive end Jonathon Cooper knows there will be an old, familiar refrain come late November.
“Yeah, that’s not changing,” he said laughing. “If I have to listen to LL Cool J all the time, then I will.”
Urban Meyer went 7-0 against Michigan.
Ryan Day cannot do better than perfect.
Jim Tressel created the blueprint, but Meyer perfected it. That is why when Day was asked if he planned on changing anything regarding the approach to the rivalry, you have to give him credit for not laughing at the question.
“No. It worked,” he said as the gaggle of reporters around him laughed. “It worked just fine. The thing I learned from Urban the minute I got there was you work The Game every day. And we honor the rivalry and respect the rivalry, so we work it every day, whether it’s recruiting or where we have periods of practice where we call it the Team Up North Drill … so we work it every day.”
It has been 2,800 days since Michigan last beat Ohio State in football. That doesn’t happen by accident, and it doesn’t happen by worrying about the game just one week a year.
And that kind of focus isn’t suddenly going to change now.
“It’s something we always have in the back of our minds,” Day said. “We have stuff up in our facility and we respect those guys to the utmost and the program they have, and we know this year is going to be hard. Last year was a little bit of an anomaly. It got sideways but we know it’s not going to be easy this year and so we’re going to have our hands full again going up there.”
Just ask Cooper about that game; 2-9-1 and wasted National Title shots, perfect seasons, reputations and finally a head coaching job.
It will always be considered, “THE GAME.” You are defined as what you do as a football player in the Michigan game. Your legacy as an Ohio State Buckeye is based on the fact of did you win or lose that particular game? I have been to Ohio State football practices many times, and I can tell you that they are as intense as anything that I have seen. Yes….there is respect for Michigan as our rival. However, there is also a very strong “hate” for them. I worked as a recruiting assistant for Steve Pederson/ OSU football in the 1980’s, early 1990’s while Coach Cooper was there. I remember the 1990 game when we lost because we got stuffed on a 4th down play. The next week, we had this irate fan calling in from Cleveland saying he was going to come down and rip our throats out! (LOL) It is a warm memory now but not then!! It reassured me then that it’s not just another game…it is THE Game! I also sat by Earle Bruce at an Ohio State clinic a few years ago before he passed away. You knew talking with him how important that game was, especially in 1987. Ryan Day knows how important the Michigan game is. I listened to him this past April at the Woody Hayes Facility talk about it. He knows that his success/legacy is based on that game. My wife and I are both Ohio State graduates, and our son currently attends OSU. My daughter is thinking about going there as well. So, we all understand the importance of this rivalry. No one and I mean no one, has the traditions and culture of The Ohio State University! It is a first rate university with GREAT academics and traditions. Go Bucks!
Well said, Buckeye! Why did you have to bring up that 1990 memory!? 😉 Haha. I was at that game as well. That probably was right up there with the 1996 13-9 chock-job against Michigan as well. That one seemed to sting the most though because, yet again, we were undefeated going into The Game!
three, dead-on responses. ’nuff said.
Ryan Day had first hand training on The Game! I think we will be just fine. People act as if he’s some sort of outsider in hist first year. This is Day’s THIRD year with Ohio State!
I think it is hilarious that Brady Hoke has a better record against the Bucks than the Khaki man ROFL!
Let Tressel address the team on Monday to start michigan week off…let Meyer address the team on Friday before they head up north…then let Day make his mark on Saturday with a pre-game speech and performance for the ages.
I am exceedingly glad on a day in late July, our Head Coach and senior players Fuller and Cooper are describing why and how they give respect to… that program up north.
The absence of hype & arrogance & egoism run amok is… ‘curiously refreshing’ … and must be re-newed each Day, just as is this team’s ‘commitment to excellence’ in ‘walking our talk.’
For we can always work toward it, but never ‘have’ it.
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