"There will be no letdown...the Buckeyes are going to get up off the mat in Ann Arbor."
- Tom Fornelli, CBSSports.com
For Ohio State, last week's offensive performance was about as anemic as they can be. After mustering just 132 yards against Michigan State, the Buckeyes' line for the Michigan game shifted from favoring OSU (winners of three straight incarnations of The Game) to where it sits now, with UM as 1-point favorites. That's unsurprising for a laundry list of reasons, not least of which are Ohio State's dismal performance against the spread this year (4-7) and the team's season-long offensive roller coaster.
But Tom Fornelli, of CBS Sports, likes the Buckeyes' odds this weekend against Jim Harbaugh's Wolverines. He's picking Ohio State to cover and win. Fornelli's stance comes from a pair of factors that could swing in the Buckeyes' favor: Michigan's own struggles against inferior opponents, and the nature of The Game itself. Since losing to Michigan State on what was perhaps the craziest play in college football this year, Michigan has allowed 24.5 points per game while letting far worse teams like Minnesota and Indiana hang around -- sound like anyone else you know? -- and if the Buckeyes can find some semblance of offensive identity again, on this of all weeks, they can hang with the Wolverines.
That's a colossal if, of course, but one that's not out of the question for a team boasting a host of players who wrecked the college football world a year ago. It's safe to say that Ezekiel Elliott will get more than 12 carries this week. J.T. Barrett will almost certainly throw for more than 46 yards. With everything to play for, we have to hope they'll figure it all out this week.
"I can't say it's all in good fun, because they don't mean it to be fun, but it's funny to me and it fuels the rivalry. It's cool."
- Kyle Kalis, Michigan RG, via Mark Snyder, Detroit Free Press
Ohio State fans might recognize the man suiting up to play right guard for the Wolverines on Saturday. That would be Kyle Kalis, who originally committed to Jim Tressel and Ohio State during his high school years at Lakewood St. Edward's, and who decommitted once Tressel was ushered out.
As the Detroit Free Press reminds us, it was Kalis who infamously declared that "the Michigan-Ohio border is now open." He says that it's pretty obvious that Buckeye fans haven't forgotten that comment, or his switch to the team's hated rival. Kalis is no slouch, emerging as a 2+ year starter for the Wolverines, and that perhaps makes it easier for Buckeye fans to loathe him. For his part, Kalis thinks the threats and expletives he continues to receive are "funny."
It's really not cool to make threats to anyone, particularly opposing football players who also happen to be college kids. So we here at LGHL have assembled a handy list of acceptable trash talk to hit Kalis with this weekend, if he happens to be in earshot:
- Folks, it's fitting that Kalis plays Right Guard, 'cause this guy stinks.
- You know who else showed little respect for traditional borders?
- You're not good at football
"I'm still not completely over it. It's definitely been a rough, sleepless couple of nights, partly because of that."
- Joey Bosa, via Bill Rabinowitz, The Columbus Dispatch
No one who has watched Ohio State's defense take the field could reasonably say that Joey Bosa isn't one of the most dominant forces in college football. He's a nightmare for opposing offenses (and offensive coordinators), and will probably be one of the first players to hear his name called in April's NFL Draft. But that doesn't stop Bosa from being his own biggest critic.
Against Michigan State last weekend, Bosa had an uncharacteristically shaky day. He was drawn offsides three times, once on a crucial fourth down in the game's final quarter, seemingly affected by whatever was ailing most of the team against the Spartans. According to the defensive end (per the Dispatch's Bill Rabinowitz), it's been a rough week for him. "It was a really big mistake, and I'm still not completely over it...I just want to do everything I possibly can to help us win, and when I do something like that to negatively affect the team, it hurts a lot," Bosa said Monday.
Urban Meyer, for his part, has reportedly been working closely with Bosa to help him handle the stresses of being such a high-profile player having to perform on such a big stage. The Buckeyes will need Bosa at his best against Michigan, and it seems like Bosa will need Bosa at his best if he's going to move past his mistakes.
"To know we're playing such a good team and it's back how it used to be -- two of the top teams in college football going at it -- it makes it more exciting," he said.
"Damn you guys! You just don't understand it! I just don't understand why you guys don't understand what this game is all about."
This morning, Scout.com's Ryan Ginn related an all-time great Woody Hayes story about the 1968 season. Hayes, the most volatile and quotable coach in Ohio State history, went on a legendary rant during Michigan week that year, which his players view as one of the reasons they were able to come out and beat the Wolverines to the tune of 50-14 a few days later.
The Buckeyes had a tremendous freshman class in 1967, who were unable to play in varsity games thanks to a conference rule (one which reared its ugly head in discussion again last season). The following year, they came out hungry, having been bloodied against some great talent in practice, and with a legendary taskmaster in Hayes driving their season. They were undefeated heading into Michigan week, and "Woody never blew up all year long," according to Ron Maciejowski, the team's backup quarterback.
That all changed during one of the team's final practices before The Game. Starting QB Rex Kern was battling nagging injuries and playing sloppy, so Hayes brought Maciejowski in under center. His first pass wasn't on the money, and Hayes went berserk in front of the whole team. According to Maciejowski (per Ginn):
He tears his t-shirt down the center. He takes his watch off and grinds it into the ground. He takes his glasses off and jumps up and down on them. Then he tries to break his whistle cord – well you can’t break a whistle cord. He can’t break it, so he looks at us, stops, and hits himself in the eye with his left fist, and he’s bleeding. We’re all standing there with our jaws down on our chests. And this all happened in 10 seconds, 15 seconds.
The outburst was enough to motivate the Buckeyes on to a historic win.