The Wrath Of The Hurricane

Michigan week is full of tradition, but when the Hurricane comes through town the Buckeyes pay attention. Former head coach Earle Bruce and his annual address to the team helps get Ohio State fired up and ready to go against the Wolverines.

Michigan week is full of tradition, but perhaps none of the planned festivities get the attention of the Buckeyes quite like the arrival of the Hurricane.

Every year during Michigan week, former head coach Earle Bruce speaks with the team to give them his full, uncensored thoughts on the rivalry game.

"It's the one that means everything, whether you walk the alleys or the main streets of Columbus, Ohio," Bruce said of the game. "It means a good bit to the players. It's bragging rights and everything else. In Columbus, Ohio, if you win all of them but you lose to Michigan, you're nothing."

As head coach of the Buckeyes, Bruce posted a 5-4 record against the Wolverines. He was famously fired during the week leading up to the 1987 Michigan game but allowed to retain his job until after the game. To support their coach, OSU came out wearing headbands under their helmets with "EARLE" scrawled across their foreheads.

This year's Michigan week marks exactly 20 years since Bruce's dismissal. To the north, rumors continue to swirl that current Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr will be coaching in his last regular-season game.

Bruce said he can somewhat relate to the situation involving Carr.

"I can tell you right now that Michigan knows how to handle every problem right," Bruce said. "They'll handle it exactly right. There won't be much done to Carr. He'll be well treated up there, no matter what happens.

"I think he's got his hands full getting his team prepared with the injuries that he's had and coming back from two losses at the beginning of the season to come this far and then lose it last week with not his two best players probably offensively in the game. He's concerned probably about how they're going to play this week."

The former coach typically speaks to the team on Sunday, but his performance was pushed back one day due to the Cleveland Browns-Pittsburgh Steelers game this past weekend.

Current head coach Jim Tressel began inviting Bruce to speak in 2001, his first year on the job.

"Earle always likes to talk about this game," Tressel said. "He likes to talk about it in July. I'm sure he talks about it on the golf course when you're playing, because he was honored to be a part of it. He was a player and then an assistant coach and a head coach in the game and he brings a great picture of what the game is all about.

"Our guys wouldn't think that it's Ohio State/Michigan week without Coach Bruce stopping by."

Sophomore wide receiver Brian Hartline backed up that sentiment, stating that when Coach Bruce – dubbed "Hurricane" – speaks, the players know it comes from the heart.

"Hurricane is crazy," Hartline said. "He's so random, but he tells us how it is. He doesn't come in planned. He doesn't come in with anything to say. He comes in there and he starts going and whatever comes to his mind about this game, he says it. That's the best way to illustrate this game. You can't come in planning what you're going to do because as soon as you're too planned and they hit you in the mouth, then what are you going to do?"

Listening to Bruce gives younger players an advantage, Hartline said, because they gain an early understanding as to why the game is so important.

Prior to last season's game, Bruce said he felt the Buckeyes would win because they had Troy Smith under center. This year, he feels OSU has an advantage in one area – and he emphasized that point by saying it three times.

"Speed's going to be a great difference," he said. "I think we have a good bit of speed relative to them. When I watch Michigan and I watch us, I think speed's important. They have (Mario) Manningham, who has great speed. You've got to shut him down, but I think our overall team speed is very, very good."

While last year's game between the two rivals saw two unbeaten teams going at it for 60 minutes, this year offers no guarantee that either team will wind up in the national championship game.

But to hear Bruce tell the story, the Buckeyes are far from the national title hunt after suffering one loss.

"Incidentally, we're not out of that national title game by any means, if you study what really could happen," he said. "There's a lot of things that could happen. I can almost guarantee I know one team that's not going to be in there. If you look at the picture, it can happen as sure as I'm standing here. Remember who said it, because it's going to happen, I think."

Although he denied to name specific teams, Bruce was certain of one big upset.

"No. 1, the team that everyone thinks is going to be in it isn't going to be in it," he said. "You hear me?"

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