Michigan quarterback Chad Henne has never played against Ohio State, but he has already used the word “hate” to describe the historic rivalry between the Wolverines and Buckeyes.
Henne and the seventh-ranked Wolverines (9-1, 7-0 Big Ten) will have a Rose Bowl berth and conference championship on the line when they visit the Buckeyes (6-4, 3-4) in the continuation of one of college football’s most storied series.
“It’s the biggest tradition in college football,” Henne said. “They hate us and we hate them.”
Michigan coach Lloyd Carr didn’t agree with Henne’s description.
“Hate, I guarantee is not part of this rivalry,” Carr said. “And I think when he’s through he would not characterize it that way. They probably have guys that say the same thing.
“I think if you’re at Michigan, you hate to lose to Ohio State. And I think if you’re at Ohio State, you hate to lose to Michigan. I think that’s what Chad Henne meant, so print it that way.”
Henne has been a key to the Wolverines’ success, throwing for 2,188 yards and 19 touchdowns. His favorite target has been Braylon Edwards, who has 76 catches for 1,049 yards and 11 touchdowns.
This is the 101st meeting between the schools, with Michigan leading the all-time series 57-37-6. There is no question that the Wolverines have much more at stake in this encounter as the teams conclude the regular season.
A win would assure the Wolverines, seventh in the Bowl Championship Series standings, of a spot in the Rose Bowl and a record 17th outright Big Ten title.
Michigan controls its postseason fate because it got the help it needed when previously unbeaten Wisconsin lost at Michigan State on Saturday. After the Wolverines beat Northwestern 42-20—their seventh straight win this year, and 13th consecutive Big Ten victory—many of them huddled around televisions to root for their instate rivals.
Though the Wolverines will come into Columbus as favorites, “The Game” has produced many season-wrecking upsets.
Ohio State was undefeated in 1993, ’95 and ’96 before losing to Michigan, and last year, the Buckeyes were second in the BCS rankings when they lost a return trip to the national title game with a 35-21 setback at Michigan.
The Buckeyes are drawing strength from what happened in the Michigan game three years ago during coach Jim Tressel’s first season.
Ohio State had lost four games and was coming off a loss—just like this year—when it went to The Big House to play 11th-ranked Michigan. The Buckeyes pulled off a 26-20 upset, knocking the Wolverines out of a share of the Big Ten title and denying them a trip to the Sugar Bowl.
“I don’t think we come into this game with nothing to lose because we’re playing here at Ohio State, we’re playing against Michigan and that pretty much speaks for itself,” Buckeyes wide receiver Santonio Holmes said.
“Everything that they have right now is on the line, like going for a big BCS bowl. We have an opportunity to spoil those chances. That’s our main focus right now.”
If the Buckeyes win, they’ll end a disappointing season with a satisfying victory. An Ohio State win would also drop Michigan into a first-place tie and possibly a second-tier bowl in Florida.
Ohio State knows it is going to a bowl, but whether it heads to a favorable destination remains to be seen. Right now, the Buckeyes appear limited to the Alamo or Sun Bowls. Neither is on New Year’s Day and both are far removed from the spotlight the team has grown accustomed to after spending the last two holiday seasons at the Fiesta Bowl.