Schlegel Ready For First Taste Of 'Big House'

Ohio State linebacker Anthony Schlegel was baptized into the OSU-Michigan rivalry last year in Columbus. But this year will mark the first trip to Ann Arbor for the former Air Force transfer. We caught up with Schlegel on Monday who offered his usual interesting takes on several topics surrounding "The Game."

Ohio State senior middle linebacker Anthony Schlegel is looking forward to his first trip to Ann Arbor.

He knows it will be an old-fashioned slugfest and that's the brand of football he likes to play.

Schlegel got his first taste of the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry last year in Columbus when the Buckeyes emerged with a 37-21 victory.

"It was my first experience in the game and just how physical the game was and just the way our guys responded on both sides of the ball and special teams, that was probably the funnest game I've ever been in," Schlegel said.

Ohio State has enjoyed recent success in the rivalry, winning three of the last four against the Wolverines. Part of the reason for OSU's success is the added emphasis that head coach Jim Tressel places on the game.

"Oh definitely. There's definitely an emphasis," Schlegel said. "We look back as to why we lost in 2003 and really the game boils down to who wants it more and who is going to be more physical. You've got to have ball security and you have to get turnovers. You think that's what every game boils down to, but more so in this game. And it's going to be fun. I'm looking forward to it because I've never been there."

Schegel says Tressel doesn't change his approach Michigan week. He is not more intense than usual.

"Oh, he's pretty even-keeled all the time," he said. "And that's how you have to be playing football. You can't be like a roller coaster. The next play is the most important and keep on trucking."

Tressel always seems to be under control, but does he ever chew out the players behind closed doors when something doesn't go right? Does he ever raise his voice and really let his players have it?

"Oh, he doesn't give it to us," Schlegel said. "He knows when we come out maybe a little flat in the game, or we're not really doing what we should be doing that game, he'll say something at halftime. The thing about him is that he's a great leader. He knows when to say something and when not to say it. I've just got so much respect for him. He's a great coach."

Schlegel transferred from the Air Force Academy after the 2002 season. This is his third year living in Columbus and he's noticed a disturbing trend around town: too many people wearing Michigan gear.

"It's like, ‘What are you doing? Why do you have that on? Aren't you a Buckeye fan?' I don't understand it," Schlegel said.

Schlegel says just seeing Michigan's helmets on TV gets him fired up.

"Oh, I get excited," he said. "I'm like, ‘I get to play in that game here in a little bit.' In the summertime, you'd be out just running some errands and you'd see a guy with a Michigan hat on and you'd be in line and you'd say, ‘Hey man, you like Michigan? Why?' And then you talk to them and you say, ‘Sorry, I play for Ohio State and I get fired up because I get to play in that game.' We're very fortunate and blessed that we get to play in this rivalry and this tradition that both schools have."

Schlegel and the Buckeyes have been careful this week not to say anything out of line and provide bulletin board material for Michigan. However, apparently a quote from a UM player is all over OSU's locker room.

"Already this year some guy over there said something," Schlegel said. "He said their offense is hitting on all cylinders and no defense can stop them. Just stuff like that. Honestly, to me, it doesn't mean anything, because I'm just watching film and getting ready to practice."

And Schlegel says you don't have to worry about OSU's players saying anything foolish. (No, Bobby Carpenter was not made available for interviews this week.)

"Well, we're smart," Schlegel said. "We're smart guys because you don't want to fuel the fire. You just want to go out there and let that emotion come out and talk with your pads and just lay it out there on the field. Just lay it all out there on the field and see who's tougher and who wants it more. That's what it all boils down to."

Schlegel was asked what he's heard about Michigan Stadium, the largest venue in the country.

"I've heard it's a big bowl," he said. "I heard it's a bowl and it's pretty loud and that's really it. I know it's going to be an electric atmosphere. It's one of those games that you play college football to be a part of."

Being from Texas, Schlegel was initially surprised at how much importance was placed on "The Game."

"Well, Buckeye fans are a different breed," he said. "Every game and especially this one is so important. Honestly, it took me running out of the tunnel last year and I figured it out, how everyone felt about it. And from there, I truly understand. Last year we had the clock that counted down and I knew how important the game was, but until you get out there and experience it and run out of the tunnel and start hitting people, that's when you realize what the game is all about."

Schlegel was asked if OSU will view this year as a great season if it is able to knock off Michigan.

"Yes. I think that and what we do with the bowl," he said. "Well, I don't even know if I can say great. It all depends on how we finish out the year. Really, that's what it all boils down to. A win over Michigan is always huge. But you have to look back after the season to see how you really did. I'm not looking forward to the end of the season. Oh well."

Last year, there might have been a little bit of gamesmanship on OSU's part prior to the game. The bags of Michigan's players and coaches were searched by dogs upon arriving at Ohio Stadium. Ohio State said it was just normal procedure, but UM didn't buy it. And coach Lloyd Carr is not one to pass up an opportunity to whine.

This year, OSU knows Michigan might have something up its sleeve when the Buckeyes arrive in town.

"I can see maybe bussing to the stadium, they might make us take a long way and we get in the locker room late and we have to hurry up and get dressed," Schlegel said. "Why not? Why not use those things to your advantage? I would. Why not.

"I think last year, the whole dog searching thing, that's just taking precaution. But, oh well. Maybe it distracted them, but they need to adapt and overcome."

With all the spread teams that the Buckeyes faced this year, Schlegel is looking forward to playing a team like Michigan that will come right at them.

"Oh, you always look forward to it when you get to play smash-mouth football being a linebacker," he said. "That's always fun. The physical-type games like this game, that's why I truly enjoy playing college football."

But Schlegel knows that Michigan is a versatile offense that can do a lot of things well.

"Well, they really don't run a straight I," he said. "They're always motioning people. They do a great job of mixing the whole thing up. Mixing their whole offense up. You know, moving the tight end, moving the fullback. They just do so many different things to get you confused, but I think it's going to be a physical game. Really, they're going to see who wants it more."

Ohio State's players were treated to an emotional speech from former head coach Earle Bruce on Sunday. It's become a yearly tradition since Tressel took the helm.

"He's old, but he's young at heart," Schlegel said of Bruce.

Schlegel was asked if he's surprised that Bruce still gets so fired up for the OSU-UM game.

"No. Because honestly, when we look back on this experience at Ohio State and we're a little older, we're going to get just as pumped up," he said. "He was telling us how it makes him feel 15 years younger every time this week comes because he just gets so excited. He's been a part of the game for over 50 years now. It's something that is truly an honor to be a part of and once we get out of here and get to look back, it's going to be even that much more exciting."

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