They weren't even teenagers the last time The Game meant as much. Ohio State vs. Michigan is always the biggest game of the season for both teams. They take immense pride in what they firmly believe is the greatest rivalry in sports.
They weren't even teenagers the last time The Game meant as much.
Ohio State vs. Michigan is always the biggest game of the season for both teams. They take immense pride in what they firmly believe is the greatest rivalry in sports.
But when championships are riding on the outcome for both teams, the intensity runneth over. That will be the case on Saturday in Ohio Stadium. The No. 2 Buckeyes and No. 3 Wolverines will meet in their biggest showdown since the teams were ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in 2006.
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"It's a dream come true," Ohio State senior linebacker Joe Burger said. "Ten years ago, you remember watching it. To be able to have the opportunity to suit up and play in a game of that magnitude, it's surely something special. You prepare the best you can so that you can remember it the right way the rest of your life."
Chris Worley remembers watching the 2006 game on projection screens in the Cleveland Glenville gym with about 1,000 people. Glenville graduates Troy Smith and Ted Ginn Jr. helped the Buckeyes win 42-39.
"It was an amazing feeling," he said.
The Buckeyes have dominated the rivalry this century, winning 11 of the last 12 game while Michigan went through dismal seasons under coaches Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke.
Jim Harbaugh has revitalized the program in just two seasons. For the first time since 2006, the teams - both with 10-1 records - are considered close to equal in talent.
"You can take the records and throw them out," Worley said. "You can take the seasons and just throw them out. This time of year it's about one thing and that's beat the Team Up North. But with the records being what they are on both sides, it's intensified the game a little more."
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The loser almost certainly will fall out of contention for one of the four College Football Playoff spots. Michigan would advance to the Big Ten title game with a victory. Ohio State would need to win and have Michigan State upset Penn State to reach Indianapolis, though the Buckeyes look to be safe to make the playoff with a victory Saturday.
But the Buckeyes wanted no part of any speculation beyond Saturday. The rivalry is all that matters.
Those from Ohio grew up immersed in it. Raised in Pickerington, Elflein remembered his school being filled with kids wearing Buckeye gear before the game.
"Then there would be the one kid wearing blue, and everyone giving him crap," he said.
Meyer, an Ashtabula native, grew up during the Ten Year War between coaches Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler. He recalled that his mom dragged him out for errands during one Ohio State-Michigan game. At an outdoor mall, he had to be content to listen to the broadcast over the loudspeakers.
For non-Ohioans on the Buckeyes' roster, there is an indoctrination to get them up to speed about the rivalry.
"We've taken quizzes on it," Elflein said. "There will be posters everywhere with facts about the rivalry. We train for this game all year long. We definitely have to educate guys who aren't from Ohio who don't know about it."
Whether there is little at stake or everything, the rivalry matters. But nothing is better than a season like this when both teams have so much riding on the outcome.
"You live for games like this if you're a competitor," Worley said.