Brittany Schock / Asst. photo editor
Ohio State football coach Luke Fickell began Michigan Week by fielding questions about the rivalry between the Buckeyes and Wolverines, and talking about his own experience participating in the “The Game” at a Monday press conference.
Fickell began his remarks Monday by saying that the week leading up to the Michigan game is the most important week of the year, and that the Buckeyes are now focused on their “one-game season.”
“It’s still the Ohio State-Michigan game, still the greatest rivalry in all sports,” Fickell said. “We wouldn’t attack it any other way. That’s what is remembered. We understand that. We know that. Our guys have understood that regardless of what the situation has been in the last 10 years that I’ve been here or even the five years I was here as a player.
“When you come here, you know what it’s about.”
Fickell said the rivalry with “that team up north” was more than enough motivation for his players and that he would not need to mention a chance at competing in a better bowl game or finishing the season with a winning record as added incentive to his players.
“It’s been about Michigan. It will be about Michigan. It will be about one another. 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 what we want to be about. To me, that’s where the power is … when you can look at the guy next to you and believe in one another and fight for one another.”
Senior linebacker Andrew Sweat missed Saturday’s game against Penn State due to a concussion, and Fickell said he was questionable for Saturday.
“When you’re dealing with the head, it doesn’t matter what game it really is,” Fickell said. “Obviously, (Sweat) wanted to be out there last week. And if you would have given him a helmet, he would have been out there last week. Ultimately, you’ve got to look at what’s best for him.”
Fickell said that sophomore wide receiver Corey “Philly” Brown would be “OK,” but that sophomore defensive back C.J. Barnett was questionable for Saturday. Brown has missed time due to an ankle injury while Barnett has been hampered by his right knee.
The rivalry through the eyes of Fickell
OSU posted a 1-3 record against Michigan during Fickell’s days as a Buckeyes nose guard from 1993-1994. The Buckeyes’ lone win against the Wolverines during Fickell’s time as a player was a 22-6 victory on Nov. 19, 1994, in Columbus, Ohio.
“There’s not…great memories back when I was playing I guess you’d say,” Fickell said in reference to the three losses he was a part of as a player.
Fickell said he still has fond memories of the atmosphere on campus leading up to the game.
“The buzz on campus, whether you’re a freshman and the band coming around and getting everybody out of the dorms, just that excitement behind it all,” he said. “I grew up here. Knew about (the rivalry). But never truly, truly was a part of what that really was throughout an entire week until I came to school here. And those are the things you remember.”
Uncharted (and unsavory) territory
OSU brings a 6-5 overall record into Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, as well as a 3-4 record in Big Ten play. Several players said after last Saturday’s 20-14 loss to Penn State that they were unaccustomed to entering Michigan week with so many losses, and so is Fickell.
“That’s a part of life and that’s the part of adversity,” Fickell said. “You have to have confidence in what you do. You have to believe in what you do and that’s what we keep pounding them on.”
“You just gotta believe”
Former OSU coach Jim Tressel led OSU to six consecutive wins against Michigan, not including the Buckeyes’ win against the Wolverines in 2010, which was later vacated by the university as part of OSU’s self-imposed penalties for violating NCAA rules. Fickell said that he won’t attempt to replicate Tressel’s preparation for the much-anticipated Michigan game.
“We have a foundation that’s been set. We knew going into the season that in the situation, we weren’t going to change a whole lot of things. Not that I would change a whole lot of things,” Fickell said. “It’s something that’s always there and talked about. You just gotta believe in it.”
Kickoff for Saturday’s game at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor is set for noon.