SvoNotebook: Are You Ready For Some Football?

Think you're ready for the Ohio State-Michigan game? Imagine how tough it is for those who will be taking part. We take a look at the pregame anticipation plus have notes on Devin Gardner, OSU's white unis, plus the usual stats and figures.

Think you can't wait for the Michigan game to get here?

Just imagine being an Ohio State player or coach.

While fans often talk about just how much they can't wait for a game to arrive, the feeling in many cases pales in comparison to the anticipation in each locker room.

The Game is no different, and in fact, the legendary history of the contest makes Saturday at high noon seem like it takes eons to arrive for those involved.

"It's such relief," former OSU fullback and linebacker Zach Boren said. "In this game, so much is built up, and rightfully so. It's the greatest rivalry in all of sports, but in your mind, you're just ready for it. Those guys are going to get up to wherever they stay near Michigan, and they won't be able to sleep Friday night.

"It's just one of those things where you look at the clock all night waiting for that morning wakeup call. Once you strap them on, you're ready to go."

Not even Jim Tressel was immune from such feelings. Clearly, Tressel had the formula for winning the big game down, as he went 9-1 vs. the Wolverines, but he could also feel just how the weight of the rivalry would sit on both his shoulders and those of his players leading up to kickoff.

"There's extreme focus this week," Tressel said. "Not that you don't focus the other weeks, but you turn it up a notch. The other thing about this week is you just can't wait for it to be over. You've practiced since early August, played all those games. All you want to do is get out there because you know what it's going to be like when those two teams get together. You just want to get the week over with. It feels like you're waiting forever, but the focus is extreme."

Gardner Watch
It has been a year of spectacular statistics – some good, some bad – for Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner.

The Wolverines signal caller became the first Michigan passer to throw for at least 400 yards in a game when U-M beat Indiana earlier this year – and he flew by the mark with 503 passing yards in the 63-47 win. His 584 total yards in the game was one short of the Big Ten record as well.

On the other hand, Gardner has been sacked seven times apiece in losses to Michigan State and Nebraska, and he's also tossed a conference-most 11 picks this season. With U-M's porous, young offensive line often not giving him time to throw, Gardner has been unable to make enough things happen to keep the Wolverines offense threatening over the past few weeks.

"You can kinda see that he's kinda frustrated because they haven't been winning, and I feel like anybody's kinda frustrated when you're not winning," OSU linebacker Ryan Shazier said. "But I feel like he's a good player, he has a good arm, and he can get out of trouble easily. So, I know he's going to bring his ‘A' game when he comes to play us, so just watching him, I'm just trying to key in on several things he likes to do and try to watch him more."

On the whole, Gardner has gone 176 for 300 (58.7 percent) for 2,509 yards and 17 touchdowns. He has also has 461 net rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground on 146 attempts (including sacks). His 271.1 yards of total offense per game ranks second in the conference.

He has dangerous scrambling ability, but at times, the Wolverines' offensive front has been so lacking that Gardner simply hasn't had a chance. The Buckeyes would like to keep it that way on Saturday.

"You just have to get to him," defensive lineman Michael Bennett said. "He seems like he gets flustered, but he has a lot of talent. When you let him sit in the pocket, he can make some plays. He can scramble and he can run, too. You just have to bring pressure to him and let him know you're there."

Toledo Jack
A graduate of St. John's High School in Toledo, Jack Mewhort knows the important of the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry.

The Glass City is split 50-50 according to many accounts – even though it is in Ohio, Toledo is about an hour closer to Ann Arbor than it is Columbus – and so the rivalry holds a unique flavor in Mewhort's hometown. There's even a store split down the middle in gear between the two programs, perhaps not a huge surprise given the land dispute between the two states that precipitated the rivalry was over the area that is now Toledo.

So while Mewhort's family is, of course, all Buckeye, he's also quite aware of the rich history of Michigan football, including the mystique of Michigan Stadium.

"It's a really cool environment, ton of people," he said. "It's your classic stadium. When you think of college football and a big game, The Horseshoe, Penn State and up there are those classic stadiums you think of when you think of a big-time college football game."

One of the more imposing Buckeyes, Mewhort also had a warning for anyone that he grew up with who might be thinking of rooting on the Maize and Blue on Saturday.

That is likely a list that is pretty long – remember the half-and-half split – but Mewhort expects most of his buddies to be in favor of the Buckeyes at least for this game.

"I think all my friends if they were fans of that school, they're more fans of me now. They switched their allegiances. I don't think anyone I'm really that close with are fans of That School Up North. If I find out, we're going to have a problem."

New Jerseys
They say you're not supposed to wear white after Labor Day, but Ohio State isn't bound by traditional fashion rules.

As a result, the Buckeyes are wearing all-white Pro Combat uniforms for the contest with Michigan, likely in the hope that the team's record vs. their rivals in alternate uniforms will move to 4-0 after previous wins in 2009, '10 and '12.

The good news is the players – who along with recruits are the target audience of such sartorial statements – seem to like the jerseys, which will feature the chrome helmet OSU has worn thrice already as well as red numbers.

"I've seen them and yeah, they're really sweet," Shazier said Monday. "We got to practice in the new cleats yesterday. I know it's going to be really amazing going out there in a game like that with the new uniforms."

"I think they're cool," added Bennett. "I love the Pro Combat helmets. You have the all-white unis and then the Pro Combat helmets. I think they will look pretty cool."

Facts And Figures
Both teams have ruined perfect seasons for their rivals five times in history. Michigan handed OSU its first loss in 1969, '73 (tie), '93, '95 and '96, while OSU did the same to the Wolverines in 1970, '72, '73, '74 and 2006.

Michigan tight end Devin Funchess' 686 receiving yards this year are the most ever for a Wolverines player at his position, besting the mark of 662 set by Jim Mandick in 1969.

As it stands at this moment, Urban Meyer is just one of two coaches in OSU history to not lose to Michigan. The other is Howard Jones, who had a 0-0-1 record for the Buckeyes thanks to a 3-3 tie in 1910.

Michigan has allowed opponents to score touchdowns on 49 percent of their red zone opportunities this season (19 TDs in 39 chances). Meanwhile, OSU's TD percent of 83.3 (45 in 54 tries) is second in the nation.

Ohio State has scored on its first drive 10 of 11 times this season -- and you could say it's a perfect 11 of 11. The only time OSU didn't tally was against Florida A&M when the Rattlers intercepted a Kenny Guiton pass, but FAMU fumbled the interception return and OSU regained possession, going on to score a touchdown on that drive.

Buckeye Sports Top Stories