Meyer Plans For Tressel-like Results vs. U-M

The most successful coach Ohio State has ever seen in the rivalry with Michigan was Jim Tressel, who posted a 9-1 record against the Wolverines in his 10 years leading the Buckeyes program. Now in his first year as the team's head coach and sitting with an 11-0 record, Urban Meyer understands the urgency.

Having solidified his spot in Ohio State history as perhaps the most valiant warrior in the Buckeyes have ever seen in battles against Michigan, former quarterback Troy Smith has more memories than he can recall from participating in The Game.

But it isn't those in-game moments that Smith holds closest to his heart even if those are the instances that will forever keep his name unforgettable to the more than 100,000 people who file into Ohio Stadium every fall Saturday.

"The clearest memory I have about the Michigan game was the importance my coach Jim Tressel put on it every year – whether you were going to play or not," Smith told BSB. "We would always implement certain things into the game plan just for the Michigan game even though we were playing other teams.

"There was always a small portion of everything we did to remind us how important the last team and the last game of the season was to us. That was very prominent in my upbringing as a Buckeye, and I hold it true to this day."

Smith is remembered as a Michigan killer having beaten the Wolverines three times in three attempts as the OSU starting quarterback, but he isn't the only one that will never forget the way Tressel approached preparing his team for the annual rivalry game.

Perhaps that 365-day approach of keeping Michigan close to the team's thoughts was the reason Tressel was so successful against Ohio State's most bitter rival, posting a 9-1 record in his decade leading the Buckeyes football program.

Tressel took time out of each practice all season long – even if only 10 minutes – to prepare for The Game. The Wolverines fight song, "Hail To The Victors," was a frequent addition to the Buckeyes' practice facility speakers as Tressel and his staff dedicated time to focusing on the Michigan game each day, even when the contest was months away.

Now as first-year head coach Urban Meyer prepares for his first battle against Michigan as Ohio State's head coach, he took a step back to respect what Tressel accomplished against the Wolverines. He hopes he can pick up from where Tressel left off.

"No one has had greater success than Jim Tressel, and I have members of my staff that were on his staff," Meyer said. "So I did some research, and obviously it's our program, but once again, I'm going to utilize anything I can. So we had a couple of those things that I learned from the previous coaches that coached here. So we did that during training camp."

Having grown up in Ohio, Meyer understands as well as anyone what this rivalry means to both programs. Finding success in the rivalry is just as important as championships and conference titles. Without it, legacies are tainted and jobs are lost.

As Meyer prepares for his first go-around against Michigan as Ohio State's head coach, there's enough pressure to simply win in his first clash with U-M and head coach Brady Hoke, who beat the Buckeyes in his first try a year ago.

Add in the fact the Buckeyes are 11-0 and four quarters of winning football away from completing a rare undefeated season – only five Ohio State teams have accomplished that feat – and now beating Michigan has become everything to OSU's season, if it wasn't already.

"It's everything," senior right tackle Reid Fragel said. "At this point, the record doesn't mean anything. Being 11-0 is nice, but it all comes down to this game. You could go 11-1, and it all comes down to this game. We'll be remembered by this week and this week only."

Meyer has become known for his intensity since the first day he introduced himself to the team, making the head coach's approach to Michigan feel normal. There's no question, however, that Meyer is locked in.

In his first season, the Buckeyes head coach has done everything right. He's put the NCAA issues in the past, continued the Buckeyes winning tradition and earned the respect of his team.

Beating Michigan, however, will be the determining factor when later gauging the success of Meyer's first season.

"You know what week it is, I can tell you that," senior linebacker Etienne Sabino said. "Just the history and the bragging rights behind it, you know it's here."

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