Dislike Bubbling As Rivals Prepare For Game

Jim Tressel and Rich Rodriguez are friends, but that doesn't mean their respective football teams have to like each other very much. Ohio State and Michigan have talked a good game the past couple of years, enough so that it appears some good, old-fashioned enmity is in full force as the teams prepare to face off Saturday.

Players in the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry often talk about how much respect they have for one another's programs and the intensity involved in a typical installment of The Game, but another emotion came to the forefront after last year's 42-7 OSU win.

Hate.

After the Buckeyes finished last year's dismantling of the hapless Wolverines, a few of the players admitted that some good, old-fashioned dislike goes into those late November afternoons like this Saturday.

"There's so much hatred and bad blood between each school," safety Kurt Coleman said postgame. "It's tough to describe because everyone is trying to hurt the next person. Usually, (other) games are, ‘I'm trying to make a big play,' or whatever, but you're just trying to hurt the person across from you and that's why I love this game."

As he was wont to be, offensive lineman Alex Boone was more blunt.

"Obviously, what makes this such a great rivalry is that we both hate each other, and that's the truth," Boone said.

Now that's a rivalry, and this year's pregame chatter seems to confirm some of those emotions.

"When it comes down to the football field, I dislike them a lot more than I dislike other teams," said normally mild-mannered defensive lineman Doug Worthington, who was also sure to point out he wished the Wolverines had been having a better season.

One can only imagine how this year's version of The Game will be enhanced on the hate scale by the presence of Justin Boren, a former Michigan player who left the program two years ago in a huff over the lack of "family values" under new head coach Rich Rodriguez, on the Ohio State offensive line for the first time.

Already this week, some Michigan players have voiced their displeasure about Boren's transfer. In comments in the Detroit News, defensive end Brandon Graham called the Ohio native's move to OSU "like a slap in the face," and fellow offensive lineman David Moosman said that Boren "shouldn't have come in the first place."

Whether that will result in more bad blood will be seen on Saturday in Michigan Stadium, but it will be hard to top some of the recent escapades in the rivalry.

That's especially true on the Ohio State side, where Kirk Barton seemed to mock the 2007 Michigan team by saying, "I guess a funny thing happened on the way to the sunset," after Chad Henne, Mike Hart and Jake Long returned for a disappointing '07 season that ended with a 14-3 loss to Ohio State. After that same game, cornerback Malcolm Jenkins said, "I would say I feel bad, but I don't."

Before that game, tempers flared at midfield between the two teams when Ohio State ran out of its traditional hive before warmups to jump up and down near midfield. Last year, the teams nearly came to blows as the Michigan players and the Buckeyes started jawing as the Wolverines were leaving the field after warming up.

"It's tradition more than anything," tight end Jake Ballard said. "It's just friendly talk and we're just messing around. We have the utmost respect for Michigan. I would never see us get into a fight."

However, linebacker Austin Spitler took a slightly different opinion.

"It gets you fired up," linebacker Austin Spitler said. "It's two teams that really don't like each other. It comes down to that. We really despise Michigan here at Ohio State, as all Ohioans do. Emotions are running high running out there."

That pregame jawing – which might cease this year now that the Ohio State coaches stop the hive from reaching midfield – has become the prelude to what is always a physical, hard-hitting game. In last year's contest, Michigan's Sam McGuffie and Ohio State's Jim Cordle were knocked out after hard hits.

Safety Anderson Russell said the key to playing in such a contest is to keep the resulting feelings in check.

"You can't get caught up in it because you still have to play the game and you can't let your emotions get control of you," he said. "If you do you end up making stupid mistakes that could end up costing you the game."

The last word – as it should in this heated rivalry – comes down to Earle Bruce, who is known among the Buckeye players for his forceful speeches the Sunday before the Michigan game about the importance of the rivalry.

Defender of all things Buckeye, Bruce watched successor John Cooper go through a miserable 2-10-1 career against the Wolverines that played a part in his firing, and the old coach apparently wouldn't mind seeing a similar fate befall a couple of coaches in that state up north, either.

"We want to beat them every year, every year, every year," Bruce said. "That's what we're doing. I'm all for five in a row, six in a row, seven in a row, and I'd be fine with a couple of coaches getting fired. That wouldn't be bad either."


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