November 16, 2007

Ohio State, Michigan meet for Big Ten title

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In a haywire season with so many crazy occurrences, the matchup of Michigan vs. Ohio State for the Big Ten championship and a Rose Bowl berth may seem like a step toward stopping the insanity.

But that suggestion is as loony as anything that has happened this year, including Kansas being undefeated, Navy beating Notre Dame or Urban Meyer staying at a school more than two seasons.

Ohio State and Michigan have been at odds since the 1835 "Border War," when the states threatened to take up arms to settle a dispute over which state could claim 468 square miles known as the "Toledo Strip."

Obviously, Ohio won that one, but Michigan leads the series 57-40-6. That certainly would have rankled former Buckeyes coach Woody Hayes.

Hayes detested Michigan so much that he went for a two-point conversion late in a 50-14 victory in 1968. Asked why he went for two, Hayes answered, "Because they wouldn't let me go for three."

Michigan won 10 of 13 games from 1988-2000, when the Buckeyes were coached by John Cooper. In 1999, a group of Michigan fans celebrated a 24-17 victory in Ann Arbor by stopping at an overpass on U.S. 23 leading into Toledo and unfurling a huge banner reading "2-9-1." For Buckeyes fans returning home, it was an unnecessary reminder of Cooper's record against the Wolverines. Cooper eventually was fired despite winning more than 70 percent of his games.

Now, Michigan coach Lloyd Carr, who has won five Big Ten championships and a national title, is under similar scrutiny for losing five of the past six games in the rivalry. The Wolverines have lost three in a row against Jim Tressel, Cooper's successor.

Carr said he doesn't feel additional pressure to end the losing streak. "I think we put pressure on ourselves," he said. "The one thing I tell players when I recruit them is you got to want the pressure here. You've got to want it because it's here. We want to embrace that pressure because we want to win every time we take the field."

That's never easy against Ohio State, and this year it could be even more difficult with tailback Mike Hart and quarterback Chad Henne hampered by injuries. In addition to the injury situation, there are a few others things that might concern Wolverines fans: The defense has been inconsistent, and the Michigan is coming off a loss to Wisconsin.

Things aren't exactly rosy for the Buckeyes. Ohio State, which was ranked No. 1 and appeared destined for the BCS national-championship game, also is coming off a loss - to Illinois.

Buckeyes quarterback Todd Boeckman threw three interceptions against the Illini, and Illinois rushed for 260 yards against the Buckeyes. It was the most rushing yardage OSU has allowed all season.

Both teams are entering this game off losses for the first time since 1959.

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.




 

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