COLUMBUS, Ohio – Forget the 5-6 record and the talk about Brady Hoke getting fired.
When Ohio State's coaches and players look at Michigan, they see a dangerous powerhouse desperate because it's cornered.
Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer was asked this week if he could tell Michigan had "issues."
"No, because you watch videotape and the talent is there," he said. "They're going to give us everything they got — and what they've got is a lot."
By almost every measure, this has been a forgettable year for the Wolverines, particularly on offense. They rank near the bottom in most major-college stats, including 111th in scoring (20.3 points a game), 113th in passing (163 yards) and 114th in total offense (330 yards).
The clincher is they have scored 11 or fewer points in four games this season.
But don't try telling the seventh-ranked Buckeyes any of that.
Immersed in preparations for the showdown with the Wolverines on Saturday, the Buckeyes don't believe what they're watching on video from Michigan's games earlier this season.
"They have a lot of talent, from the quarterback position to the receivers. They have talent all over the field," Ohio State linebacker Curtis Grant said. "It's kind of hard to wonder what's going on up there, like 'How come they're not winning more games?' I just got done watching film. They have multiple running backs. They have good receivers. Any time this team wanted to explode, they could and just go crazy."
It's not surprising that the Buckeyes see something that others have not. They have a vivid recall of last year's game, when quarterback Devin Gardner and Co. lit up the Buckeyes' vaunted defense for 603 yards and 41 points — and still lost.
Michael Bennett, Ohio State's senior defensive tackle, spent most of that game chasing Wolverines. Gardner completed 32 of 45 passes for a gaudy 451 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for another score.
"It felt like every play that they got was a trick play or a screen or something like that," Bennett said disgustedly. "It was annoying that we couldn't feel it. It was annoying that we couldn't redirect and get it, and it was annoying that they kept doing those plays instead of just trying to run it down our throats and then we would have stopped them."
Laughing, he added, "They actually wanted to win the game — and that was annoying."
Hoke, for his part, doesn't think success one year means much in the next meeting.
"I do not (believe in) the carry-over from year to year," he said. "They are two different teams. There are different individuals on the teams; there are different leaderships and attitudes on the teams. Every team is different. What happened last year was a group of (Michigan) guys went out, played awfully hard together and executed and made some plays when they had to."
Michigan (5-6, 3-4 Big Ten) needs a win just to go to a bowl game — not to mention how a big upset could affect Hoke's job security.
The Buckeyes (10-1, 7-0, No. 6 CFP) have already punched a ticket for the Big Ten title game a week later. And they remain in the hunt for one of those four coveted spots in the first playoffs.
They're going over every second of video, knowing that a loss — particularly one to their archrival — would destroy a lot of their goals and dreams.
"I'm pretty confident just because we don't want to have what happened last year happen again," linebacker Joshua Perry said. "We're going to prepare really well for this game. Guys are going to take it really seriously. We know what's at stake."
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