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Buckeyes look to get physical


Published: Sat, November 20, 2004 @ 12:00 a.m.


COLUMBUS (AP) -- Ohio State cornerback Dustin Fox watched the video of the Buckeyes' loss to Michigan last season about 10 times.
Anything unusual about that?
"No, that's way above normal," the senior said. "I'm watching it to see how they kicked our rear ends last year, because they did. They came in up there and they definitely played more physical than we did. That's important for us to get back to that physical, Big Ten play."
The Buckeyes were ranked second in the Bowl Championship Series standings heading into last year's game with Michigan, but the Wolverines ran out to a 21-0 lead and won 35-21 at The Big House in Ann Arbor.
The win gave Michigan the conference title and a trip to the Rose Bowl.
101st meeting
Ohio State is reduced to the role of spoiler today (1 p.m., Channel 33, WKBN-AM 570) when it meets No. 7 Michigan in the 101st addition of the Big Ten's signature rivalry game.
The Wolverines (9-1, 7-0) can earn their second straight league title and Rose Bowl berth by beating the Buckeyes (6-4, 3-4) again.
High stakes are business as usual when it comes to Ohio State-Michigan.
When the Wolverines last played in Ohio Stadium in 2002, the second-ranked Buckeyes clinched a spot in the national championship game with a 14-9 victory. Will Allen's interception of John Navarre's pass near the end zone preserved the win for the eventual national champs.
"I just remember them rushing the field as I walked off," Michigan fullback Kevin Dudley said. "I just remember how awful that felt. It just gives us more motivation to play hard and not let that happen again."
Ohio State's season has been its worst in four years under coach Jim Tressel -- on the field and off.
Former tailback Maurice Clarett has accused Tressel, assistant coaches and school boosters of setting him up with a car and a high-pay, no-work summer job, among other transgressions.
A win over Michigan would provide some relief. And there's added hope for Ohio State because favorites haven't always done well in the series.
Three times in the 1990s, Ohio State was unbeaten coming into the Michigan game and left with a loss. Michigan has known disappointment, too. Three years ago, another four-loss Ohio State team cost the Wolverines a share of the Big Ten crown with a 26-20 upset in Ann Arbor.
"Records don't mean anything; what's on the line means nothing," Wolverines receiver Braylon Edwards said. "It's just about their program vs. our program. It's tradition vs. tradition. It's still Bo [Schembechler] vs. Woody [Hayes]. It still has that bearing on the game. When we play them, nothing matters but the guys across from us. And the same goes for them. Their losing doesn't mean anything. They could come into the game 0-10, we could come into the game 0-10, and it's still going to be a dogfight."
Young stars
Freshmen and first-year starters are the focal points of this year's game.
Michigan has grown and prospered with freshmen Chad Henne at quarterback and Mike Hart at tailback. Henne is the Big Ten's most efficient passer, Hart is in the top 10 in the nation in rushing with 131.1 yards a game.
Ohio State won three games in a row after an 0-3 start in the Big Ten. The turnaround coincided with redshirt sophomore Troy Smith taking over at quarterback for Justin Zwick, and freshman Ted Ginn Jr. getting a chance to show his blazing speed on punt returns and at a receiver.
Their progress will be measured by how they perform in front of 105,000 fans in the biggest game of the season. Ohio State-Michigan games are an opportunity for players to create a lasting legacy.
"It's our greatest rivalry," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. "It's the greatest tradition in college football. You only have a few days to get ready for it and you only have one day -- a few hours in that day -- to come up with your best effort. And that's what we're trying to do."


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