"It's still the greatest rivalry in all of sports. We wouldn't attack it any other way. That's how it's remembered. We understand that. That's the way it has been for 10 years I've been here (as a coach) or even the five years I was here as a player. When you come here, you know what it's about."
The Buckeyes enter the game 6-5 after a 20-13 loss to then-No. 21 Penn State, a setback that has them in jeopardy of their first non-winning regular season in more than a decade. The 15th-ranked Wolverines enter with a 9-2 mark and are already guaranteed to finish ahead of Ohio State in the standings for the first time since 2004.
"I think our guys are ready to leave everything else behind us," Fickell said. "The season is what it is right now, but it's always been about this week."
The team has already gotten into the usual swing of things for a Michigan week, kicking things off with the customary visit from the Ohio State University Marching Band. That includes the players getting their chance to do their own rendition of "Script Ohio".
"That was probably something we needed every bit as much as they did, but it really got our guys going and got us into the groove of Michigan week," said Fickell, a Columbus native who was part of Ohio State teams that went 1-3-1 against the Wolverines from 1992-96.
The band's visit also brought back some memories from his playing career with current linebackers coach Mike Vrabel.
"Coach ‘Vrabes' reminded me he was the guy who got to dot the ‘i' when we were seniors, so those are the little things, the buzz on campus whether you're a freshman getting everyone out of the dorms, just the excitement behind it all," Fickell said. "I grew up here and knew about it but never truly, truly was a part of what that really was until I came to school here. Those are the things you remember."
The Buckeyes begin the week with several starters' participation in the game questionable.
"When you're dealing with the head, it's doesn't matter the feeling really is," Fickell said of Sweat, who miss the Penn State game. "He wanted to be out there last week. If you had given him a helmet he would have, but ultimately you've got to look at what's best for him. There are some things you just can't mess around with."