Ohio State more than aware Michigan is not just another game

Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE

Despite the fact that the third-ranked Buckeyes are heavy favorites to win against That Team Up North on Saturday, the entire team is aware that this isn't just another game on the schedule.

Speaking to the media on Monday, Urban Meyer looked shocked when a member of the press alerted him to the fact that Meyer had uttered out loud the word "M*chigan."

"Did I really? Wow. I apologize," Meyer responded.

Buckeyes fans need not worry, however, that Meyer doesn't fully appreciate the import of Saturday's game, or the historical weight this rivalry carries. Urban Meyer hates That Team Up North just as much as he should. Meyer forbade NFL scouts to wear blue, a color evocative of That Team Up North, when visiting Ohio State's campus. Like many Buckeyes fans, Meyer's dislike of That Team Up North had its genesis in his early years. Meyer grew up during the Ten Year War between legendary Buckeyes coach Woody Hayes and That Coach Up North.

Saturday's game bears some resemblance to that game between Woody and Bo that kicked off the Ten Year War. The 1969 Buckeyes were on a roll, with 22 consecutive wins, a streak that was broken by the 2013 Buckeyes just last Saturday. The 1969 Buckeyes were so good, in fact, that they were widely considered to be one of the greatest teams in college football history.

In 1969, much like 2013, That Team Up North was having a vastly different experience from the Buckeyes. They were coming off of a period of relative irrelevancy, and their 7-2 record was illustrative of their inferiority to the Buckeyes that season. Well, okay, 7-2 isn't a terrible record, but for the purpose of this narrative we will say that it is, because it's That Team Up North.

The 1969 Buckeyes marched into the Big House on November 22 resting securely in the knowledge that they were favored to win by 21 points. That Team Up North went into the half with a commanding 24-12 lead, a lead that would hold through the end of the game. The Buckeyes continually shot themselves in the foot, with seven turnovers on the day. It was one of the biggest upsets in college football history, and it cost the Buckeyes their winning streak, their second consecutive national championship, and a whole lot of pride.

The 2013 Buckeyes have a lot riding on Saturday's game, too. They can extend their winning streak to a remarkable 24 games, and can retain their lofty BCS ranking. A loss, given the aspirations of the Buckeyes this season, would be disastrous.

But the Buckeyes won't lose. They're not thinking about the Big Ten Championship game, or whatever may await them in Pasadena this bowl season. They're focused on beating That Team Up North, and that focus starts at the top, with Urban Meyer.

Linebacker Ryan Shazier said that Meyer's intensity this week is palpable. "When we go through drills and everything, you can...just see the look in [Meyer's] eyes. Just the rage that he wants to win so bad."

In light of Meyer's level of focus on Saturday's game, and the way that he's passing that on to his players, Buckeyes fans can surely forgive him for letting the name of their most hated rival slip. It will certainly be entirely forgotten after the Buckeyes win on Saturday.

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