Players Upbeat As Michigan Week Begins

OSU quarterback Troy Smith said he is excited about being tapped to start Saturday's game with Michigan (1 p.m., ABC). He and nine other players met with the media today for their only availability this week.

A select group of 10 Ohio State players met with the media today at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in advance of Saturday's season finale with Michigan (1 p.m., ABC).

The Monday press conference is used strictly for Michigan week. There will be no other media availability with players the rest of the week. OSU coach Jim Tressel will hold his usual press luncheon on Tuesday.

Included in the group was quarterback Troy Smith, who will make his first start against Michigan.

"It will mean a lot to go out there and sort of live out a childhood fantasy, going up against the Wolverines," Smith said. "Pierre Woods, one of my closest friends, is on that football team. It will mean a lot to me and it will mean a lot for this team this year to bounce back from the loss to Purdue.

"There's been a lot of things going on here and it would mean a lot if we're able to go out and get a win against Michigan. That would make a lot of it go away. That sort of makes the game a bigger deal. Michigan has a chance to be (outright) Big Ten champs. We're sort of coming in as the spoiler.

"I hope my team doesn't come out with that sense that we're trying to spoil Michigan's season and make ours a better one. We have to win this game for us, for our staff and for our football family."

Woods, of course, is a Cleveland Glenville graduate, as are Smith and OSU freshman receiver Ted Ginn Jr.

"That means a lot for us as a community and a team," Smith said. "We've come a long way to put some athletes in a positive position at these upper echelon schools. Michigan and Ohio State is arguably the biggest rivalry in college football. To have a teammate, you know a former high school teammate, from my school and where I'm from, it means a lot."

Smith also discussed the Michigan defense.

"They don't make a lot of mistakes," he said. "Pride and tradition also plays a part in it. Michigan from the jump, from the beginning of the season, set out with goals they wanted to conquer. Obviously, they're doing some of that. Michigan, regardless of whether they're having a good season or a bad season, it's always a clash of the titans between the two so-called best teams in the Big Ten."

Cornerback Dustin Fox missed the Purdue game, but said he should be ready for the Michigan game.

"I think I could have probably played this past weekend, but I just wasn't ready," Fox said. "My groin was kind of strained. It wasn't 100 percent. But this week I think it will be rested up and ready to go. I hurt it in practice last week."

This will be Fox's fourth game and third start against Michigan.

"It's just a blessing, first off, to play so much in what I consider to be the best rivalry in the country," Fox said. "It's a great opportunity, I hope, to just go out and get some more gold pants."

Fox talked about the challenge of going against UM wide receiver Braylon Edwards, who is getting some run in the Heisman Trophy race.

"I think it will be a group effort, obviously, because he's a great player," Fox said. "I will do my best to cover him. Obviously, Ashton (Youboty) and E.J. (Underwood) will also do their part."

Defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock said OSU's younger players are getting the message that it is a special week.

"We have made that clear to some of the younger guys here about how serious a game it is and how tough a game it is," Pitcock said. "They're going to be a different team when they come in here. It will be the hardest game you've ever played mentally and physically."

Pitcock believes a win in this game can help the Buckeyes redeem themselves after what has been a rough 6-4 campaign.

"I think a win this week could put a Band-Aid over some of the losses," he said. "You feel like everything is more complete after that win. You work hard for the season and that game. You feel an accomplishment when you win.

"I've seen both the winning side and the losing side of this. You use both of those games to fuel yourself for this coming game. You keep the loss in the back of your head to motivate you. At the same time, you think about the win and what happened there to motivate you as well."

Defensive end Simon Fraser told reporters he has watched tape of last year's 35-21 loss at Michigan so many times he has lost count.

"Any time I had a free chance and I didn't have something else to prepare for, I looked back at that game," he said. "We just couldn't get it together. We had it there when we got it down to seven points and had that interception. But we did not take advantage of that opportunity."

Fraser said he wants to end his home career – where the current seniors have only lost three games – on a happy note.

"For me, it comes down to Ohio State and Michigan," he said. "You put the records aside and you put what you're playing for aside. It just comes down to tradition."

Holmes Returning

Flanker Santonio Holmes told's Charles Babb that, as of now, he plans to return for his junior season in 2005. There had been speculation that Holmes may consider an early jump to the NFL. He is OSU's leading receiver with 47 catches for 672 yards (14.3 average) and tied for the team lead with six touchdowns.

Babb plans an article on Holmes later in the week.

We will also have more from the players as the week wears on.

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