Wolverines, Buckeyes feelings are ‘in your DNA’
After all these years, it still matters.
Ohio State and Wisconsin will play for the Big Ten championship in another week, but Saturday’s annual grudge match between the Buckeyes and Michigan still carries the same fervor it had when Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler patrolled the sidelines in Columbus and Ann Arbor.
The Wolverines have struggled in recent years against their ancient rival, losing five straight games and 12 of the last 13 to Ohio State, but that doesn’t seem to matter as the teams prepare for Saturday’s 11 a.m. game at Michigan Stadium.
The two teams just don’t particularly care for one another.
Just ask Michigan safety Tyree Kinnel, an Ohio native who said Monday that a win over the Buckeyes would make the Wolverines’ season.
“For our team coming off a loss to Wisconsin and Big Ten’s not in the picture, but they have that in their picture so we want to take everything away from them,” Kinnel told the Detroit News. “We want to beat them. We want to ruin their season.’’
Kinnel went on to say he respects the Buckeyes’ program, but wants the Wolverines to gain some momentum heading into a bowl game, especially at the expense of a long-time rival.
Michigan quarterback Brandon Peters is undergoing concussion protocol this week after getting knocked out of the Wisconsin game by a hard hit.
Coach Jim Harbaugh said Peters’ availability remains undetermined but said he is making strides.
Wilton Speight, out since fracturing three vertebrae during a late-September game at Purdue, has returned to practice for the Wolverines but has not been involved in any contact work.
Ohio State is an 11-point favorite, but Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer isn’t taking anything for granted.
“I can’t imagine many having any more respect for this rivalry than I do myself, and our staff, too. You talk about laser focus. This is everything you’ve got going,” Meyer said.
“This rivalry is not a one-week deal. I learned that from Woody Hayes, from Earle Bruce, from Jim Tressel. I just think it’s in your blood. It’s in your DNA.”
Axe to grind: Standing between Big Ten West Division champ Wisconsin and an unbeaten regular season is an opponent without an axe to grind.
Minnesota hasn’t beaten the Badgers in the annual battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe since 2003, a string of 13 straight losses.
At 11-0 and with a chance to remain in the chase for a College Football Playoff berth riding on the outcome, the Badgers take nothing for granted in a series now deadlocked at 59-59-8 that has seen its last four games settled by seven points or less.
“If you look back at the history of it, both schools have had their runs,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. “The great thing about sports is, what are you doing today? This group knows that, and it’s all about this year, two teams. You play a game to earn the right to either keep the axe or get the axe.’’
The guy is ready: Purdue wide receiver Anthony Mahoungou earned more opportunities to work over a collection of Iowa cornerbacks on Saturday when he was able to draw a pass interference call on the Hawkeyes’ Manny Rugamba.
“We called a play and he was able to at least fight his way and get pass interference and that was a big plus, to just set the tone like, yeah, ’I’m going to be physical and you’re not going to hold me, and I’m going to get off this press coverage,” Boilermakers coach Jeff Brohm said Monday.
“Even though we didn’t complete that ball, you saw him fighting to get off and we got the flag. That stuck in my head that, hey, this guy is ready, so we called his number again and from there he took it and ran with it.”
Mahoungou went on two score twice in the opening minutes of the second half, moving Purdue in front of Iowa to stay.
Bucket battle: There’s more at stake in Saturday’s battle between Indiana and Purdue than the Old Oaken Bucket, the traveling trophy the teams have played for annually since 1925.
The winner is going to a bowl game. The loser is going back to work.
The Hoosiers, looking to earn a bowl berth for the third straight year, bring a four-game win streak into the series against the Boilermakers. Indiana has never beaten Purdue in five straight years.
“I don’t think it’s something I have to make a big deal about,” Hoosiers coach Tom Allen said following Saturday’s win over Rutgers. “They understand how huge it is. But at the same time, it’s Purdue, and that’s all that needs to be said.’’
Purple reign: Northwestern enters Saturday’s game at Illinois riding a six-game win streak, the program’s longest in 20 years.
From an 0-2 start in the Big Ten to its current 6-2 stronghold on second place in the Big Ten West, coach Pat Fitzgerald said success has been a byproduct of a narrow focus for his team.
“The guys focused on what was important and that was preparing. They shut out the negativity, focused on what we could control,” Fitzgerald said. “I think the biggest change has been our consistency up front on both sides of the ball, especially offensively. We’ve played much better up front the last two months.’’