Curtis Samuel scored the game-winning touchdown in double overtime against Michigan last season. The Buckeyes have won five consecutive games against their rival.
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COLUMBUS — As the rain poured and the time melted away in Ohio State’s victory against Illinois, the Buckeyes’ minds naturally began to drift to a certain rival 162 miles to the north.
Rivalry week is here.
“We did celebrate it for a quick minute — and then it's over,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. “Now it's time to put our laser lights on our rival.”
Ohio State made quick work of Illinois in a 52-14 victory, setting up the yearly squabble with Michigan in the final week of the regular season. The Buckeyes’ win against Illinois clinched the East Division and secured their place in the Big Ten championship game against Wisconsin, but their focus turned immediately to Michigan.
“You sing the fight song, then immediately you go into team-up-north week,” defensive end Tyquan Lewis said.
Although OSU will have a chance at the Big Ten title no matter what happens against UM, it still will have plenty on the line in Ann Arbor.
First, any hopes of going to the College Football Playoff can continue only with a victory against Michigan. Second, nobody on Ohio State’s roster knows what it feels like to lose to the Wolverines.
The Buckeyes would like to keep it that way.
“To beat the team up north — that better happen,” Ohio State linebacker Chris Worley said. “That’s like law. You don’t break that law. You better beat the team up north.”
Ohio State has won five in a row in the series, including a double-overtime victory in Columbus last season.
Meyer gave the team the rest of Saturday to enjoy the senior day victory against the Illini.
Sunday was different. The Buckeyes’ coach typically plays LL Cool J’s “It’s Time For War” through the loudspeakers in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center during Michigan week, and the Buckeyes were expecting an intense practice Sunday.
“It’s the biggest rivalry of all sport,” Ohio State receiver Parris Campbell said. “We take it very seriously. It’s going to be a dogfight, and we’re ready for that. As soon as we hit The Woody [on Sunday], it’s time.”
Wisconsin, which is unbeaten so far this season, is waiting in the conference championship game Dec. 2 in Indianapolis.
But Michigan comes first, and Worley said the Buckeyes are paying no mind to the Badgers.
“We’re not even honestly thinking about the Big Ten championship right now,” Worley said. “The only thing we’ve talked about so far is the team up north.”
Fairly or unfairly, seasons at Ohio State often are judged based on whether the Buckeyes beat Michigan.
The team talks about the game all season and constantly underlines its importance.
Now that the first 11 games are out of the way, Ohio State’s focus is on The Game, and nothing else.
“I mean, we have meetings throughout the whole year and throughout the summer about, ‘Beat the team up north,’” Worley said. “That’s the No. 1 thing.”
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