In this rivalry, the chance to go 4-0 doesn’t happen often.
But for the current fourth-year seniors on Ohio State’s roster, that opportunity is on the doorstep, it is just a matter of whether or not they can seize it.
“I think that'd be huge. That'd be everything. Regardless of what their record has been, it has truly been a battle every single game. We've had close games every single year,” senior offensive lineman Taylor Decker said. “Them having a big year and having a good year this year, I think that'll make it even better if we're able to kind of cap off our senior year, our regular season, to get a win for the fourth year.”
While the Wolverines have not exactly been world beaters during the last few seasons, the Buckeyes biggest win came in last year’s battle, a 42-28 victory in Columbus.
Now, Michigan enters The Game as the favorite and it is not hard to see why.
The Buckeyes struggled mightily on offense against the Michigan State while Michigan is one fluke play away against the Spartans to being right in the thick of the playoff race.
The seniors on this team have lost two games in a row before, the Big Ten Championship Game and the Orange Bowl in 2013, and for Ohio State, which still has an outside chance at a Big Ten title game appearance, it doesn’t want to feel that way again.
“I think it'll kind of light a fire under us, the fact that we did. We didn't play well. So underachieving in a game, you just hate to see that. So I think that'll hopefully ignite a fire under some guys. The whole team. This is a huge game,” Decker said.
“Nothing would make me feel better than winning my fourth pair of gold pants. Going up there and beating them in their place. I think getting a win, and a big win at that, is the best way to bounce back and kind of show what this program is about. If we can't handle a loss and get better from it, then what are we doing?”
The Buckeyes last loss in the rivalry came in 2011, when some of the current fifth-year seniors dropped a 40-34 contest in Ann Arbor.
While the current fourth-year players have not yet experienced a loss to the Wolverines, players like Joshua Perry who grew up with the rivalry, still refuse to say the word Michigan.
“That’s the way they want it around here, and that’s the way it is. The marching band came in yesterday and they do that every Sunday before the Team Up North game,” Perry said. “They were singing, ‘We don’t give a damn for the whole state of…’ and there was one kid in the band who was standing right there and he was refusing to sing the song and I was like, ‘That’s my guy right there.’ The guys in the band should have had a lot of pushups yesterday because they were definitely breaking the rules around here.”
One player who has a particular interesting experience in The Game is Ohio State senior center Jacoby Boren, whose father played for the Wolverines from 1980-1983.
His brother Justin, also committed to Michigan where he played as a freshman in 2007 before transferring to Ohio State the following season.
Now the fourth Boren to play in The Game, Jacoby said he grew up around the other side of the rivalry and has a great appreciation for what this game means to both sides.
“I think a lot of people that have just played in the game have a great understanding of it but I think I might have a little different perspective,” Boren said. “Growing up I was a fan of up there and I was around, my dad knew coach Schembechler well and was around him so I guess I have a great appreciation for that aspect of it but pretty much anyone that plays in this rivalry knows what it is about and they know it is a tough, hard-hitting game and that is what it is.”
As the game looms closer, Perry said for him, a fourth pair of gold pants would ease the pain of the loss to Michigan State which sent him out on the sour end of Senior Day.
“The one thing that’s going to really make me feel better is getting that fourth pair of gold pants,” Perry said. “That’s just a mission for me right now and the goal for a lot of the seniors and the goal for a lot of guys around here just to finish it off the right way.”