One thing was for sure after Ohio State completed a 42-27 victory over the Indiana Hoosiers.
The Buckeyes (10-1, 7-0) had clinched an appearance in the Big Ten title game, but there was one more piece of unfinished business.
“On to that team up north,” senior tight end Jeff Heuerman said after the game.
The Buckeyes struggled for the majority of the game against the Hoosiers, rallying to score half of their points in the fourth quarter, but OSU coach Urban Meyer said he is looking at the performance as a positive.
“I shared with our players what a great place to play where you win a conference or a division championship, you put 500 some yards on the board, you still feel like you didn’t play very well,” he said after the game. “No place else you’d rather play or coach that you have high expectations.”
Those expectations now turn to the 111th meeting of the Buckeyes and Michigan Wolverines, as the rivals are set to face off Saturday at Ohio Stadium. Michigan holds a 58-45-6 edge over the Buckeyes in history of The Game.
Junior defensive lineman Adolphus Washington said following the Indiana game, however, that the Buckeyes would enjoy the win for 24 hours before turning their attention to the Wolverines.
“Always celebrate a victory. I’m glad we got the victory. Now, we’re on top of the Big Ten East,” Washington said. “We’ll celebrate for a day, but now we have to get back to work to get ready for the team up north.”
OSU sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliott had a different tone following the win over Indiana, though, as he said his focus instantly would be on Michigan.
“Immediately after the game. It is a different week. We hate that school up there,” he said.
Elliott went as far as to not answer a reporter’s question because the reporter said the word “Michigan.”
“You’re not going to say that in our house,” Elliott said.
OSU redshirt-freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett, who has never played in the rivalry game, said after the win over Indiana that he had to learn about the game when he arrived in Columbus.
“I knew it was big, but coming from Texas, it was Texas and Oklahoma. I went to that game being recruited. I really didn’t have anything on the team up north and Ohio State,” Barrett said. “It was a lot to learn. It’s a deep hate for those guys. Not just the players, but more the fans.”
Barrett was on the sidelines for last year’s game however, and added he has a good feel for the rivalry now, especially after seeing former Buckeye lineman Marcus Hall get ejected after a fight on the field.
“I was looking at that like ‘let’s just please calm it down.’ It was definitely amped up at their place too,” Barrett said. “We just don’t like those guys.”
Meyer said that the atmosphere around the practice facilities will be “insane” during the week leading up to the game.
“Same way when it was Coach( Earle) Bruce in 1986 when I experienced my first rivalry game. It’s different,” Meyer said. “We’re honored to play it. We understand our responsibilities of it, too.”
Meyer was a graduate assistant under then-coach Earle Bruce during the 1986 and 1987 seasons coaching tight ends (’86) and receivers (’87). OSU fell to the Wolverines in 1986 before defeating Michigan, 23-20, in 1987, in Bruce’s last game as head coach.
Turning the clock forward 27 years, Meyer has gone 2-0 in his first two matchups against Michigan.
In both games, OSU entered undefeated.
Heuerman, who has recorded just two catches for 59 yards and a touchdown in his three games against Michigan, said despite Michigan’s 5-6, 3-4 record, the Buckeyes will have to be ready for a hungry Wolverine team.
“Records don’t matter. It is all on the line this week,” Heuerman said. “Each team is going to throw everything they got to win the game. That’s how it’s always been.”
Barrett, who found Heuerman for his 30th touchdown pass of the year against Indiana, echoed his tight end’s comments.
“It’s always like that when you play a rivalry game, a high emotion game like that,” Barrett said. “You try to control your emotions and execute the game plan and I think that at the end of the day, the team that wins (is the) team that controls their emotions and executes the game plan.”
Senior defensive lineman Michael Bennett, who has played in three games against the Wolverines, said he believes Michigan will give OSU a tough test come kickoff on Saturday.
“I don’t know what their schedule is, (what) their wins and loses are this year, but I know they are going to bring everything they have against us and if we don’t do the same, it might be a bad day for the Buckeyes,” Bennett said.
Despite the intensity of the rivalry, Bennett said he has a certain admiration for the game itself.
“Over the course of four years, you kind of build up a little negative feelings towards them,” Bennett said. “More than anything, you build up a respect for the rivalry and what they bring to the table every single game.”
Elliott was slightly more intense when describing how the Buckeyes will prepare for the rivalry game.
“We are just going to have to grind really hard this week so we can come out and kick their a–,” he said.
The Buckeyes and Wolverines are set to renew their disdain for each other Saturday at Ohio Stadium. Kickoff is set for noon.