In almost all cases, players and coaches pay lip service to the notion that they are only looking ahead to the game in front of them. That isn’t the case for Ohio State and its biggest rival, though.
Michigan is always on the Buckeyes’ minds, even when that game is months away. The team even spends time in the spring practicing specifically for that rivalry.
There are a number of reasons why Ohio State has dominated that series so much since Jim Tressel took over the program almost 20 years ago. Still, it is hard to argue that the attention paid to the “Team Up North” doesn’t have any impact, given the results.
Ryan Day was asked about his approach to the Ohio State-Michigan game, and he says he plans to continue the things that Urban Meyer did to keep the rivalry in focus.
He went out of his way to say that he expects a tough game this season, before confirmed that the Michigan game is an every day agenda item for the program, like it had been under Meyer.
He spoke about it at the Columbus Morning Sports Report earlier today. Via 247Sports:
“First off, a lot of deep breaths when I started thinking about the game. I start to get a little worked up,” Day said. “And the way last year’s game went, we’re going to have our hands full next year because that kind of got one-sided and they didn’t expect that.
“But we still have our Team Up North periods, which we do in the spring. This is a period where we’re practicing against them for 10 minutes. We turn on the loudspeaker and play our music and play highlights from the game before. Coach (Mick) Marotti, our strength and conditioning coach, will have those days where, if there’s 225 days until The Game then there are 225 reps that they’re about to do to end the workout. Things like this to make sure everybody understands what that rivalry is. We have a huge ceremony in the spring with the Gold Paints where former players come in and talk to the team about the rivalry. We show a video.
“Nobody’s allowed to wear blue in the facility. If they do, they have to do five push-ups right on the floor. It doesn’t matter if they’re 90 years old or in a stroller, we make them do it. We make them do it. If they say the word in the facilities, same thing. So it’s a way of life. In our recruiting room, we have a list of all the people they’ve recruited, and that’s our first thing is to beat them. Then after that, we kind of go from there. So we have to live it every day.”
Ohio State has national title aspirations every year, and they want to beat the Michigan States and Penn States and whichever elite programs they have in the non-conference. Even with the recent dominance, though, nothing tops the Michigan game for those in Columbus.