OSU, Michigan emphasize their rivalry

DESPITE this season’s records of Ohio State and Michigan, Buckeye head football coach Luke Fickell and the team don’t regard themselves as “a big underdog.”

“That’s not the way we approach things. Whatever people want to say. We believe we’ve got a great football team. We believe we haven’t performed as well as we could in the last several weeks, but that’s what Saturday is for,” said Fickell. “We’re going to attack it that way and play with confidence and not think we’ve got to do something hokey or crazy to win this football game. No pun intended.”

The great rivalry between the two teams permeated Fickell’s and Michigan head football coach Brady Hoke’s press conferences this week.

“In a rivalry like this, a lot of those things go out of the window and records go out of the window, and a lot of things are going to be scrapped,” said Fickell. “There’s going to be unbelievable passion on both sides of the football because of what this means. I think those are the things that obviously overtake a lot of those.”

Hoke pointed out that win or lose, both teams are going to play hard, and that’s the character of both programs.

“That’s what makes the whole week exciting,” he added. “It makes it fun because you know at 12:07, there will be two teams on the field playing for the pride of their schools and the tradition of those programs and what it stands for. To me, that’s what makes it the greatest rivalry.”

Hoke also said that being the favorite and the underdog really don’t matter when it comes to this football game.

When teams go on the field in Ann Arbor, OSU has a record of 6-5 and 3-4 in the Big Ten while Michigan, which is rated No. 15, is 9-2, 5-2.

The Big House doesn’t resemble Little Round Top from the Battle of Gettysburg, but Union Lt. Col. Joshua Chamberlain was mentioned during Fickell’s press conference this week. Chamberlain, who had been a professor at Bowdoin College, Maine, commanded a regiment, which held the extreme left flank on Little Round Top, a service for which he was later awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Before the season began, Fickell wanted Chamberlain to be an inspiration for this year’s team and also wanted them to be “men of action.”

In fact, Fickell suggested to Jim Tressel, coach at that time, that the players read a book, “The Traveler’s Gift,” by Andy Andrews when they were struggling with looming NCAA penalties, according to an August story by Jeff Svoboda in That book has a chapter about Chamberlain dedicated to “The Man of Action.”

When telling about Chamberlain, Bill Livingston of The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer quoted Fickell as noting, “We want (a player) to be motivated – not that we’re in the military by any means – by knowing the buddy next to him can count on him. If they fear anything, we want them to fear letting a buddy down.”

This week, Fickell told how the Buckeyes play for one another when he was asked whether he mentioned to the team that OSU could have a winning record and a better bowl game if the team would beat Michigan.

“No. No. It’s been about Michigan. It will be Michigan. It will be about one another,” he replied. “Those are the things we talk about. Everything else is out of our control. We kind of had that focus from the beginning of the year.

“This is who we are. This is what we want to be about. To me, that’s where the power is, is when you can look at the guy next to you and believe in another and fight for one another. And everybody’s got different things outside families they play for, different little things they play for, but ultimately deep down you gotta care about one another and play for one another.”

Asked what his final instructions would be to freshman quarterback Braxton Miller before he goes on the field, Fickell indicated that he wants him to continue with the passion, the drive and the courage to go play that he has, and nothing superhuman is needed.

He went on to say, “That’s the key across the board, no matter what happens, the most important play is the next play and continue to battle.”

In the rivalry, Ohio State has won the last six games and eight of the last nine overall, and this doesn’t include the 2010 season which was vacated by OSU. Michigan has the overall lead in the series with a record of 57-43-6, except for 2010.

The two universities are tied for the Big Ten record with 28-game regular season winning streaks.

Saturday’s noon game will be televised by ABC.