ABC Makes OSU-Michigan Major Event

The network of college football is pulling out all the stops to promote Saturday's showdown between Ohio State and Michigan as big television event. ABC made exec Loren Matthews, announcer Keith Jackson and former Michigan coach Bo Schembechler available earlier this week. Jackson, who works mostly on West Coast games nowadays, will fly in to call the action. They shared their thoughts on the BCS, this rivalry and, of course, Woody Hayes. Click this free link to check it out.

ABC is pulling out all the stops to make Saturday's showdown between No. 4 Ohio State and No. 5 Michigan in Ann Arbor a major event.

The network, which will televise the game nationally beginning at noon, conducted a teleconference this week with Loren Matthews, the network's senior vice president for programming in college football, as well as venerable announcer Keith Jackson and former Michigan coach Bo Schembechler.

"Once again this year, we are fortunate that the Ohio State-Michigan game means as much as it does," Matthews said.

Matthews said last year's game -- a 14-9 OSU win to send the Buckeyes to the Fiesta Bowl -- was ABC's highest rated game at 7.3, well above the season average of 4.5.

"That was a great game that went down to the last play," Matthews said.

Matthews confirmed that Jackson, who has concentrated on West Coast games in recent years, will fly back to call this game.

"We are very pleased that Keith has consented to, as he says, fly over the mountains to do a game he has done many times in the past," Matthews said.

Matthews discussed the controversy surrounding the BCS standings, where Ohio State has supplanted USC -- No. 2 in the coaches and AP polls -- for second place.

"Obviously, it would create a whole lot of controversy," Matthews said. "And when you're in television that's not all that bad as long as they spell A-B-C and B-C-S right.

"Having said that, Ohio State has got to beat Michigan at Michigan. USC not only has to beat their rival, UCLA, but we've slugged them as well against Oregon State, which is not a bad football team. Even though we are down to the end of November, there is still a lot of college football to be played yet.

"The rules are what they are and we all knew that going in. The BCS standings decide it. My opinion doesn't matter. Those are the rules we will play by."

Matthews said he took some flack this week for switching viewers in Kansas out of Kansas State's landmark win at Nebraska to see the overtimes at OSU-Purdue and N.C. State-Florida State.

"I might be the most hated man in Kansas this week," he said. "I switched out of K-State-Nebraska with 1:31 left and K-State up 37-9. We switched out to Ohio State and Purdue, which was going down to the wire.

"In the four years I've been here at ABC, I've only taken a protected territory out of a game twice and both times they have wanted to hang me."

Matthews discussed the impact televising an OSU game has for the network.

"We have ridden them, both them and USC, for the last two years. They play all these great games that make good television. But the bottom line is they keep winning them," he said.

"In my personal opinion, Craig Krenzel was the best player in the nation last year by a long shot. But he was certainly the most valuable player. He made more big plays last year to win games that I can ever remember an individual doing, starting with the game at Cincinnati. He made a 6-yard run that I thought was one of the greatest runs I've ever seen."

Jackson Has Opinions

Jackson also discussed the BCS controversy. He said if USC gets aced out by Ohio State the call for a playoff would be huge.

"The demand for change would become huge, especially in a major media market like Los Angeles," he said. "I'm probably going to make somebody mad but I thought Oklahoma and USC were the best two teams last year and I think they are again this year."

Jackson also shared his reasons for coming East to call this game.

"My reason for going to Michigan? Probably because I have a lot of old friends there," he said. "I started talking a year ago in coming to do this ball game. The situation developed so it was possible. I'm coming because I hope the weather is good and I can drive across Saginaw County on Sunday."

Jackson was asked his assessment on the Buckeyes.

"What you've got here is a football team that is more gifted on the defensive side of the ball than on the offensive side," he said. "They just don't think they're going to lose. They make you play a long field and they play a short field.

"They do to you what they do to Purdue. That guy keeps knocking them down out of bounds inside the 10. Your quarterback is in the end zone. He gets hit, he fumbles, they get a touchdown out of it and they beat you.

"That's a textbook game that Ohio State follows well. I don't think you can say this is a Woody (Hayes) team. I don't know that Woody's teams played as good on defense as these guys do.

"They've got heart. They believe in each other. They're willing to ignore the vagaries that occur. (Maurice) Clarett was a disturbing factor, but he's not there and they're still winning."

He was asked if OSU had any merit to be ahead of USC.

"I don't think so, but then again I'm biased," he said. "I'm a Westerner. I think some of the scientific impact of the BCS is lost when one computer has TCU ranked No. 2 and another has them No. 25."

Reporters asked Jackson about his memories of Woody Hayes.

"I never got too close to him," he said. "You never knew what his temperment was going to be when you got close to the game. I knew Bo a lot better than I ever knew Woody.

"Woody was very difficult for us to work with. And so there is somewhat of a detached feeling there that doesn't exist other places."

Jackson recalled that he did his first OSU-Michigan game for ABC in 1974 in Columbus, replacing longtime announcer Chris Schnekel.

"Chris, living in the Midwest, would do the Midwest game and I did the West Coast game," he said.

Jackson was asked how televised games have changed over the last few decades.

"I think we tend to overproduce these days," he said. "You have to have something going all the time. You don't have time to sit back and get a drink of water. I think the viewer needs a chance to rest and I know damn well the announcer needs a chance to rest. I think we try to jam too much into it."

Schembechler Speaks

The former coach was asked how current coach Lloyd Carr compares to him.

"I see Lloyd," Schembechler said. "He's a good friend of mine. I don't spend a lot of time with him. I certainly don't have a lot of input in the Michigan football program because almost everything they do now has no resemblance to what I did 15 years ago.

"Lloyd is a wonderful coach and a great players coach. The players love him. He's an honest straightforward guy. He's had great success in big games. He'll have his team ready.

"If they can overcome the Ohio State kicking game and not make a lot of mistakes in the kicking game like they did early in the season, they're going to be hard to beat here at home.

"He's probably less volatile. He's a little bit different than I am in that regard. But he has spent quite a bit of time here in this program. The majority of his time has been here in this program. He was here with Gary Moeller and so there's a lot of Michigan in him.

"I think the program here hasn't changed a lot here in the last 35 years."

Schembechler also discussed the poll controversy involving OSU and USC.

"I think it's pretty difficult to replace Southern Cal on the basis of (OSU's) win over Purdue," he said. "I don't know how you beat somebody (Arizona) by 45 points and drop them. I don't care who you play. That's one of the wonders of the BCS.

"If you ask me what I'd like for them to do, I'd liked to have seen them make (OSU) No. 1," he joked.

Schembechler noted the 30th anniversary of one of his most bitter memories of The Game.

"The 1973 game, as you know, we both went in undefeated," he said. "We ended up in a 10-10 tie. We missed a short field goal late in the game. In the fourth quarter, our quarterback, Dennis Franklin, broke his collarbone. As a result of that, the athletic directors voted to send Ohio State to the Rose Bowl, when they had gone the year before.

"The truth of the matter was, the Southern Cal team that played after that 1973 season was the weakest USC team they sent to the Rose Bowl and Ohio State bombed them. We had a good backup quarterback and we could have beaten them. But the Big Ten was so damn afraid we were going to lose again, they voted Ohio State to go.

"Actually, had we kicked that field goal and also made a short one at Ohio State the next year, we could have run off 20 or 30 wins in a row. But two missed field goals at the end of the game against Ohio State cost us that."

Schembechler talked about getting teams ready for The Game.

"I think the preparation during the week to play Ohio State is very special," he said. "You'll find the players are more attentive. They run faster. They hit harder. They concentrate more. They all realize it is The Game.

"When it has implications like this -- like it did in the 1970s -- it is very special. You never have to worry about getting a guy to hustle. This is what college football is all about and for a coach it is the best week of the year."

He also talked about his greatest win, the 24-12 win over No. 1 Ohio State in 1969, snapping OSU's 22-game winning streak.

"The first one, of course, was against Woody's greatest team. Winning that game in 1969 -- my first year -- helped establish my program," he said.

"Woody, at a dinner after he retired in front of his players, called the 1969 team his greatest team. Then he looked down the dais at me and said, 'You will never win a bigger game than that,' and I think he was accurate."

Schembechler also shared his view on Hayes.

"The first year I met him, I hated him," he said. "He came down to Miami (Ohio) as the head coach. Woody came in and tore everything apart. He had just got out of the service.

"The guys at Ohio State think he was tough. They should have been down there at Miami those first few years. He was a wild man. I saw him as a player, then I spent six years coaching with him and then I coached against him.

"Of all the guys who associated with him, I probably knew him the best because I had done all of those things with him. He was fascinating to be around. Not the easiest guy to get along with.

"When I left Ohio State to go to Miami as the head coach, it wasn't like I was going to cry because I was leaving Woody Hayes," Schembechler joked.

Buckeye Sports Top Stories