Andy Gottesman / Lantern multimedia editor
Following a hard-fought 20-17 victory at Iowa last weekend, No. 8-ranked Ohio State returns home on Saturday for its 107th meeting with Michigan and its regular season finale.
Although the win put the Buckeyes into the history books as the only team in conference history to win 10 games or more in six straight seasons, coach Jim Tressel said his team’s thoughts immediately shifted to the rival Wolverines.
“It seems like Iowa was a long time ago. We knew it was going to be a battle and it was,” Tressel said. “It wasn’t 30 seconds over that our thoughts began to rumble about this one, and we’re anxious.”
The Buckeyes have dominated the Wolverines at the Horseshoe in recent history, winning every game against Michigan in Columbus since 2000. Senior defensive tackle Dexter Larimore said OSU will face a much-improved Michigan squad.
“It’s crazy to think that last year they were almost a completely different team,” Larimore said. “This year, they have just turned it on offensively and just been able to score on anybody.”
Pryor comes through in the clutch
Junior quarterback Terrelle Pryor didn’t have his most impressive statistical game in the Buckeyes’ victory in Iowa City, Iowa, completing 54.5 percent of his passes and throwing for two interceptions. However, Tressel said he was impressed by his signal caller.
“I thought he played pretty well,” he said. “There were a couple times where, from the sideline, I thought he should have stood in and waited for something to develop, and then when you watched it on film, I could see why he moved around a little. … I would say his grade was as good or better than any he’s had. He really had a grasp on what we were trying to do.”
Even with the interceptions, Tressel said it was Pryor’s performance down the stretch that stood out.
“He ran the ball well. He got us in and out of plays we needed to be and obviously, you know, you’re evaluated by how you do when the chips are down, and I thought he did a nice job in that last six minutes,” he said.
Twenty-four OSU seniors will run out of the tunnel onto the field at the Horseshoe for the last time Saturday, hoping to stay unbeaten in their careers against Michigan. Couple that with the magnitude of the rivalry, and Tressel said it is going to be a special day.
“We’re looking forward to 24 seniors, the last time they go out there, and that’s a big deal to us, but that’s a bigger deal to them,” he said.
“They have been a part of some good football teams and they’re trying to lead this team into being a good football team and they know they only have one more chance back in Ohio Stadium.”
The seniors agreed that their last game in Columbus will be memorable.
“It will definitely be emotional and definitely a kind of bittersweet feeling knowing that I made it through the five years,” senior offensive lineman Bryant Browning said. “At the same time, it is going to be the last time I get to run out onto the field with my team at the Horseshoe and play in the great stadium, so it is going to be something I remember for the rest of my life.”
Downtrodden Wolverine defense
The 2010 edition of the Wolverine defense is certainly not one of the best Michigan has produced. Heading into its final regular season game, Michigan has allowed more than 33 points per game and given up an eye-popping 445.2 yards of offense per game. Despite the shortcomings, senior wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher said he expects to see a better Wolverine defense Saturday.
“We’re obviously confident in our offense no matter who we are facing,” Sanzenbacher said. “We’ll game-plan for whatever we think is going to work, but at the same time we always know that they’re probably going to be a little better than what we see on film.”
Tressel said the magnitude of the matchup will bring out the best in all parties.
“I can promise you this, they are going to play the best they can possibly play and then some,” he said. “They’re going to play better than they are. We need to play better than we are, and that’s, to me, the fun of this game.”