Former Buckeye Reid Fragel played tight end and then tackle for the Buckeyes, was drafted by the Bengals in the seventh round of the 2013 NFL Draft, spent some time with the Browns, and recently landed in Atlanta on the Falcons' practice squad. I caught up with Fragel in the locker room after Wednesday's practice to get his thoughts on That Team Up North and The Game.
I asked Fragel about his favorite memory from facing That Team Up North during his tenure at Ohio State, and it wasn't an easy choice. "It would be tough between the first time -- the first game, my freshman year playing them, and really my senior year," Fragel said. "As a freshman, you go into this game and you don't really know what to expect, and you're kind of blown away, because you go to the week and there's always traditions that you don't know about, you're not familiar with. For me, at least, not growing up in Ohio, I wasn't. So just being shown all these new traditions and opened up to a whole new world, really, that I didn't know about before -- that was awesome, my freshman year."
But as far as the experience against That Team Up North that had the most lasting impact on Fragel, it was the 2012 win over That Team Up North. That other team took a 21-20 lead into the half, but Ohio State rallied, adding two field goals and holding that team scoreless to win the game at home 26-21 and finish the season undefeated. That memory has stayed with Fragel. "Senior year was probably my favorite," he said. "Just capping off a 12-0 season, and I still remember the last play, I turned around and gave my buddy Jeff Heuerman a huge hug, and people stormed the field. It was really special to me and something I'll never forget."
As far as the intensity of the rivalry, Fragel made it clear that this particular game each year has a special level of significance in the locker room. "Yeah, there's no doubt, it's definitely a different game," Fragel said. "Some teams go into a special opponent -- the media might label it as a rival, and they downplay it and, 'Oh, it's just another game. We've got to get this one this week.' No, every year it's the same -- it's Michigan. I mean, it's The Game."
Fragel also noted that anything can happen between these two teams on any given Saturday, and that's part of what makes it so intense. "No matter if you're 0-11 going into that game, it doesn't matter what the records are," Fragel said. "Once that whistle blows, there's no record. It's 0-0. So it's definitely a special game, and like I said before, the traditions that you're shown throughout the week building up to it and the hype-up videos, those all kind of get you going and make you feel like it is The Game."
Despite the fact that the nature of the rivalry and the animosity these teams have toward each other makes the outcome of these games unpredictable, Fragel is confident that the Buckeyes can get it done on Sunday. "You never know, but I think the way that the guys are preparing -- I was just talking to some of the guys, and they're all excited," Fragel said. "They're younger guys, so this is kind of their first crack at it as starters across the board. I think they should take care of business and get the W, though."