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Posted on Fri, Nov 25, 2011 : 4:35 p.m.

There comes a time when Michigan has to beat Ohio State, and that time is now

By Kyle Meinke


What matters to the Michigan football team? For now, nothing but beating Ohio State.

Jeff Sainlar |

Those who stay will be champions. Right?

Not for this class of Michigan football seniors. They stayed through a coaching change, and fifth-year players endured two, paying perhaps the greatest price of any Wolverines player in recent history to stay.

Their reward for sticking around for one of the most tumultuous three-year stretches in school history? They have never won a Big Ten title. They will never even play for one.

They will never beat Michigan State.

The only thing they have left to play for, as far as the standards by which Michigan players judge themselves: Beat Ohio State.

For as good as the 17th-ranked Wolverines (9-2, 5-2) feel about the direction of their program after their stunning turnaround this year, they will not truly be back if they cannot beat Ohio State on Saturday (noon, ABC) — no matter what players say.

"I wouldn’t say the whole season rests on this game, as far as if Michigan is back or not," senior defensive lineman Ryan Van Bergen said this week. "It’s another game. We want to win 10 games, we’re on the brink, and that’s all were focused on."

Don't buy it.

The Wolverines went 15-22 under Rich Rodriguez, and never beat Ohio State. In fact, they were outscored 100-24 and haven't beaten the Buckeyes since 2003.

A year ago this week, the question wasn't so much whether Michigan would fire Rodriguez as when they would do it. Ohio State, meantime, was amid securing a sixth consecutive Big Ten title and Sugar Bowl bid.

A year later, the tables have swung in Michigan's favor. It is 9-2 under first-year coach Brady Hoke, vaulting into BCS consideration, and Ohio State is spiraling toward a .500 season. It's under NCAA investigation and reportedly in talks with a new coach before this season has passed.

It's lost two in a row heading into the biggest game of the year, and has first-year (only-year?) coach Luke Fickell avoiding TV.

"If it is (on), it's probably 'Animal Planet' or something that the kids are watching," he said this week.

So, the question is, if the Wolverines can't beat Ohio State this year, when will they?

Hoke has built toward this game, wisely, in a way his predecessor never did. He installed countdown clocks around Schembechler Hall. He has broken each team meeting since he was hired with "Beat Ohio!" That is, after informing his players who Ohio actually was.

He pounded on a lectern in January, demanding he be judged by this game. And that, he shall.

The Wolverines already have lost seven consecutive times to the Buckeyes, a program record. Now, it appears Urban Meyer looms and the rivalry again will escalate on both sides.

This is the Wolverines' year, and they must draw a line in the sand. If they don't, it will be a major blemish on an otherwise successful season.

Nine wins or 10 wins? There's a difference, although only marginal, and this isn't about that.

It's about legacies. It's about a group of seniors who are 0-7 against the program's two biggest rivals and posted the worst season in school history. They'll be remembered more for that three-year run of mediocrity than a nine-win season.

Unless they can beat Ohio State. Unless they can lift Michigan into a BCS bowl. And then they'll be remembered for being the group that persevered long enough to end the school's longest-ever losing streak to its biggest rival. For restoring glory.

Seniors such as Van Bergen and David Molk called a January meeting, imploring their teammates to stick beside them through transition — something that did not happen as Rodriguez took over before their freshman season. It led to mass attrition, setting Michigan back several years.

This time, Van Bergen and Molk — players who have won no titles, who have never beaten Michigan State or Ohio State and will leave this school as some of the school's biggest losers in decades — wouldn't let that happen.

And now, as they sit on nine wins and the precipice of an invitation to the sport's biggest postseason stage, they must know what's on the line.


Let's not overthink this one: Michigan has better players and better coaching, and its defense against Ohio State's one-dimensional offense will be especially overpowering. The Wolverines showed the past two weeks they are strong against mobile quarterbacks — and QB Braxton Miller is the nucleus of OSU's offense.

Rivalries have a way of procuring the unexpected, and this one is no different. Underdogs have a history of scoring big wins. It's also possible the Buckeyes won't score a single touchdown against Michigan.

The Wolverines are just that much better, especially when Ohio State has the ball. As long as Michigan QB Denard Robinson doesn't commit multiple turnovers and the Wolverines rush with a modicum of success, they will win easily. And that's what will happen.

Michigan 24, Ohio State 10 (and berth in the Sugar Bowl)

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.



Sat, Nov 26, 2011 : 9:17 p.m.

Michigan and Hoke just fulfilled our best hopes: They beat Ohio 40-34. Only a six-point margin but that's the only surprise. Coach Hoke has put an end to any questions in his first year: he IS The Man for Michigan with a 10-2 season and a chance at a BSC bowl. Kyle Meinke: this is your best piece on Michigan football of your young career. You've saddled up and, IMO, you've earned the right to be's coverage reporter for Michigan football. That's impressive and I think many agree: you've come as far in your reporting as Wolverines Team 132 has come in playing football. Too bad, Kyle, that you were wrong about Ohio's lack of ability to score on Michigan's defense. Take solace in knowing that I agreed with you 100%. ;-) One more hats off: to Courtney Avery - that was one great INT. Your defensive play is now officially part of Michigan Football History. You have just become one of Michigan's immortals. Happy Day! Michigan is BACK! Go Blue!


Sat, Nov 26, 2011 : 1:06 p.m.

Dear. dear Big Blue fans. May I remind you that Iowa beat your team. Your team had three chances to cross the goal line from a yard out and you failed to meet the challenge. We, at The Ohio State University, don't gloat over "greatness" and SAT scores like you folks do at Big Blue, we just take care of business the best way we can by perseverance and hard work. All week I have watched our team prepare with silence dedication till they are about to drop. We don't whoop and holler about beating UM - but, we will beat you. WE WILL BEAT UM - count on that.


Sat, Nov 26, 2011 : 11:35 p.m.

Lol, cool story, bro.


Sat, Nov 26, 2011 : 9:30 p.m.

You LIE! If anything, Buckeye fans have "taken the lead" in crowing over every win against Michigan - going back sixty years or more. That you constantly carp about our 'arrogance' proves the depth of your envy. You have: 1 coach fired for punching an opposing team's player on national TV. Another coach fired for going 2-10-1 against Michigan. Another coach -(the "most respected of all") getting fired for covering up his own knowledge of player violations. How "noble and superior and hard working" IS THAT?? You Buckeye fans disappoint Michigan fans almost at every turn - this should be a rival of near equals who trade only in RESPECT. Instead, Ohio fans trade primarily in lame trash talk. Go away - hang your head and learn something about being class individuals.

Theo's Brother

Sat, Nov 26, 2011 : 2:54 p.m.

GoBucks, GoBucks, What do you say? The Bucks will lose In the game today GoBucks, GoBucks, How much is true, This day will be owned By the MAIZE AND BLUE!!!!


Sat, Nov 26, 2011 : 1:46 p.m.

The only think you and your team can count on is going home a loser today. Michigan wants this game far more than Ohio and will embrace the pressure that you seem so convinced will be our downfall. In fact I believe it will be the other way around. As soon as your team gets behind, they're going to fold. Braxton Miller will not be able to face the onslaught from our defense today - bank on it. He isn't ready and you know it. Maybe in a few years he will be. Have a nice depressing ride back to Columbus later today.


Sat, Nov 26, 2011 : 10:09 a.m.

The time for talk is past, the Ohio cheating dynasty will not last. The official end comes today, because the Maize & Blue will surely come to play. At first it will be a close fray, but in the end it will be our day. Our offense will score & score, and our D will attack, and everyone in the land will know that Michigan is back ! UM 31 Ohio 14


Sat, Nov 26, 2011 : 7:47 a.m.

This one is in the bag folks, relax. Enjoy a hot cup of coffee or cider before kickoff (i'm on the West coast 9am is far to early for beer). Then when the outcome is all but assured by halftime, go ahead and clock watch... but while you impatiently await the final minutes to dwindle to zero, remember to enjoy the feeling of beating ohio and pay close attention to the faces of the coaches and players especially the Seniors of Michigan. Savor those precious moments like you've been starving for 7 years and have finally feasted with your closest loved ones, family and friends. Rejoice Wolverine fans, support team #132 and the landmark re-establishment of Michigan's proud football program. Whether Michigan ends up in a BCS game or not I am profoundly surprised and pleased with the success of the coaching staff, the unity of team #132 and Coach Hokes ability to bring together the Michigan family again. Go Blue! beat ohio and it's great to be a Michigan Wolverine.


Sat, Nov 26, 2011 : 4:34 a.m.

That's funny GoBucks, sounds like you're the one trying to psyche yourself up to will your team to victory. Those last 7 were done with ineligible players, people keep reminding fans of that school in ohio, yet people still come on these threads and actually brag about cheating to win, I would be ashamed if U-M did that to win. An extra 20 minutes of practice is not the same thing BTW, every team does it anyway I'm sure of that, our previous coach was just too incompetent to over see the matter. Beat ohio, beat ohio, beat ohio....... M 27 ohio 9, Go Blue!!!


Sat, Nov 26, 2011 : 3:41 a.m.

Kyle's article reveals the pressure UM is under to win this game. He is practically pleading with the UM nation to win, or the fate will be worse than what the German Wehrmacht faced at Stalingrad. By the way, the Germans also expected a great victory because, in their minds, they were "better" by any measure than the miserable worthless Russians. Boy, were the Germans in for a surprise. All the pressure is on UM to win the "Game" because UM has dug themselves into a psychological quicksand. At the first indication that OSU might win the game AGAIN, I believe Big Blue will fold. I don't know when that moment will come during tomorrow's game, but it will inevitably come. It might come when the UM players see the blood red Buckeyes storm on to the field, or it might come late in the game when OSU pulls ahead of UM - but, it will come and UM will fold. Hoke's unnecessary pressure to win this game can be a terrible burden for the UM team to carry with them on the field of play. The Ohio State Buckeyes will storm into the Big House with only one mission - to beat UM again. We do not want to beat you to save a season or for some legacy - we just want to beat you because you are UM, and we will do just that as we have done so the seven previous times.


Sat, Nov 26, 2011 : 7:20 a.m.

What kind of pressure have these young men been under all year? Better yet the past three years, even better how about since the moment they stepped foot on campus? You disappoint me buck fan, thought you had enough respect for this rivalry to know that any of these young men on the field tomorrow for either team have had pressure since the moment they stepped foot on their respective campuses. Your claim only demonstrates how much you don't know about this rivalry. The pressure you speak of....yeah that's for a school like Northwestern or Illinois or an FCS school. Tomorrow is about passion and skill, the team with most on the field tomorrow wins.


Sat, Nov 26, 2011 : 7 a.m.

I'm not 100% sure Michigan will win this game. But, I am 100% sure that this game will be different than the past three seasons when Rich Rodriguez was at the helm. If Ohio wants to win this game they're going to have to fight for it. I think there are two possible outcomes. Either Michigan wins convincingly, or Ohio State wins in a hard fought battle. There's no way Ohio State blows out Michigan. No chance at all.


Sat, Nov 26, 2011 : 6:07 a.m.

Hoke will have these players completely prepared, not pressured for this game. UM has more confidence than ever. This time around they are also the more talented team. OSU's complete lack of offense mixed with UM's solid defense means a big win for UM. At the end, the only thing left for Ohio to do is to hang their heads in shame as they walk out of the big house knowing they didnt stand a chance.


Sat, Nov 26, 2011 : 2:06 a.m.

I think this game is actually more important for Michigan than Ohio for the simple reason that Hoke has staked his entire coaching year on this game, and is setting up his career based on the most important game on the schedule (to paraphrase him). Both teams play hard in this game, and the importance for the players can't be minimized, but with Hoke's added emphasis, the long losing streak, the facing down of 2 coaching changes and turnaround of this team.....I think Michigan has more to play for and will show how far they have come in one year.

Terry Star21

Sat, Nov 26, 2011 : 1:56 a.m.

I have seen many ohio vs Michigan games, some we had no business winning, some we had no business losing. Many an upset on both sides, many a thrilling victory, many a devastating loss. Teams with nothing to lose (ohio) have always frightened me to death. This team from ohio should be more prepared, more hungry, more ready to play then any game they have played this year. There are (quite unfortunate for ohio) just way too many distractions for this time, and that will be down fall of this team from down south. MgoBlueForTiM.......Michigan takes care of business and walks away victorious

Terry Star21

Sat, Nov 26, 2011 : 2:04 a.m.

PS...Kyle wins his prediction here and improves his woeful record with his sports peers (we love ya Kyle, good pick really).


Sat, Nov 26, 2011 : 1:41 a.m.

I bet these seniors which they had another year in the program. I'm sure the staff will make them successful against "Ohio"


Sat, Nov 26, 2011 : 12:28 a.m.

Led by Dead Man Walking, a collection of Chumlee look-alikes has made its way northward across the wasteland known as Ohio, kicking aside buckeye nut shells as they move, and reeking of Olentangy Stench. They have arrived at their pilgrimage destination, Ann Arbor, to pay obeisance to the Wolverine nation. It is our duty, responsibility and option to select the punishment to be inflicted upon these defilers of B1G tradition and honor. I say turn the Wolverines loose to tear apart, crush and smash these southern infidels. If these human imposters seek to by led by someone bearing the initials "U.M.", they must be taught respect for those letters. But first, their egos must be destroyed. "You owe it to every man, woman, and child in the State of Michigan to beat the Buckeyes and silence their fans! Now go out there and make it happen!" "For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack." "The Team, the Team, the Team!" (Immortal words of General Bo George Patton Schembechler, with an assist from Rudyard Kipling.) Go Blue!!!

1st Down

Sat, Nov 26, 2011 : 4 a.m.

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1st Down

Sat, Nov 26, 2011 : 12:04 a.m.

Happy Black Friday everyone. Hey Theo's Brother...did Theo have you over to his crib yesterday for Turkey, Stuffing and Spread? I hope so.... family trumps all else. Beat Ohio 31-13

1st Down

Sat, Nov 26, 2011 : 3:58 a.m.

Cool. Ill bet the Spread was great as an appetizer, but didnt go over so well later in the meal when the competition with the gravy became tougher.

Theo's Brother

Sat, Nov 26, 2011 : 12:21 a.m.

He did actually. Best stuffing I've ever tasted. Big bro isn't a bad cook! BEAT OHIO!

jeff blue

Fri, Nov 25, 2011 : 11:57 p.m.

Dear Friends, In Big Ten play OSU has been terrible; much worse than their 3 - 4 record indicates: Lost to MSU at home Lost to Nebraska Beat a crummy Ilini team Won against Wiscy at home (give them a little credit here, but Wiscy was emotionally down after their strange loss to MSU) Beat an awful Indiana Team by 14 Lost to Purdue Lost to PSU at home Michigan should win easily: we at at home, have way more talent, have more to play for and we are HOT!!

Theo's Brother

Fri, Nov 25, 2011 : 11:13 p.m.

&quot;It's time we finally put to bed. The dynasty laced with Buckeye red. The Game will be, A sight to see, When comes to past what Hoke has said&quot; - Theo's Sophisticated Brother '11 It's 6:13 PM EST and the sun has officially set on the Buckeye Empire! Go BLUE! BEAT OHIO!


Fri, Nov 25, 2011 : 11:04 p.m.

Denard will have a great game (his dad told him what to do) and so will everyone else on both offense and defense. They will be ready and primed for a win. Brady will make absolute sure of that. The seniors have been great motivators all season. The time is right, and the team will finally get its big win. You have done a great job of getting back the glory. GO BLUE!


Fri, Nov 25, 2011 : 10:50 p.m.

&quot;Ohio State, meantime, was amid securing a sixth consecutive Big Ten title and Sugar Bowl bid...&quot; ...with ineligible players. Please Kyle, don't forget that part. I'm sure our Wolverines will be plenty motivated once they hit the field tomorrow. Go Blue!

Macabre Sunset

Fri, Nov 25, 2011 : 10:44 p.m.

Kyle, does this mean you finally realize your comment that the Notre Dame game was the most important one of the year was further off-base than Rich Rodriguez at a seminar for winning defense?


Fri, Nov 25, 2011 : 10:29 p.m.

Not that we need any further reason to want this game, but I'll be thinking about those seniors more tomorrow than I ever have. What a great finish this would be after all they've been through. I'd love to be in that locker room after we BEAT OHIO!


Fri, Nov 25, 2011 : 10:20 p.m.

I don't like that you picked with us this week Kyle, we were on a great streak prior to this week going 2-0 when you picked against us. Superstition in me has me wishing you would have went the other way. Too much hype made about the possible addition of UM at Ohio. Great spread option coach in the south, but this is the B1G I still don't know if it has worked successfully in the B1G. Those big bodied linemen and line backers just seem to knock the snot out of the smaller skilled athletes in the cold days of November. I love watching Denard as much as the next person, so exciting and so frustrating as well (especially missing wide open receivers running a simple post pattern up the middle of the field), but lets face it had there been a pro-style quarterback in our offense we could be 11-0 right now heading to the B1G championship game and challenging for a shot at the NC title (Yes I understand the ND game, but didn't he throw 3 INT's in that game). Smash mouth football with the right coaching still wins in the B1G and even against other spread option teams. Example: LC against Florida and Les Miles all the time. Yes on paper the Wolverines should end this streak, (It should have been ended in 2006 if Crable doesn't have that late hit penalty against Ohio with 6 minutes left) but that's why the have to play the game. I am nervous because it is just too good to be true. Strap 'em up boys, get out there, you have earned this, go get it! UM - 31 : Ohio - 17