Kirk Herbstreit on OSU vs. Michigan: 'Been building everything to get to this point'

Colin Gay
The Columbus Dispatch

After No. 1 Ohio State's 42-39 win against No. 2 Michigan in 2006, Kirk Herbstreit remembers saying "How do (the Wolverines) lose ground?"

That's something Herbstreit actually said that became bulletin board material for the Buckeyes.

But in the days leading up to the Ohio State Michigan game in its recent history, Herbstreit, a former Ohio State quarterback and ESPN analyst, said the Buckeyes have done anything to generate animosity toward its rival.

"Urban Meyer, if he were on here, he would tell you he made up (quotes)," Herbstreit said. "He would tell me, 'If it's something bad, just make it up and put Herbstreit's name on it.' So they manufacture (stuff) to get their guys (going). And these guys believe it.

"You walk through the Woody Hayes facility this week, up into the bowels where the team actually is... behind closed doors. Oh my gosh, you would see quotes. I'm sure there's a video that's playing around. It's probably been playing in the weight room all week, just a constant loop of different things to motivate the team."

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Ahead of Ohio State's next meeting with Michigan, there's no extra motivation needed.

The Buckeyes will host the Wolverines with the goal of returning to the winning side of the rivalry after dropping its first game against Michigan last season since 2011.

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It's motivation Herbstreit saw from Michigan in 2021, seeing that Wolverines team in a "feeding frenzy" with a "controlled rage," showing their anger during its 42-27 win in Ann Arbor.

"That energy, you can't really predict until you get to that morning and that day, and you go out on the field for warm ups and you just feel that extra woof, like 'Whoa, it's powerful,'" Herbstreit said. "I think that comes from when you're pissed off. It comes when you are angry. And it's not six guys. It's 100 guys that feel that. Michigan was that team last year, and the anger pushed them through that game."

Michigan had it's "breakthrough moment" in 2021, much like Herbstreit remembers Ohio State trying to do when he was its quarterback in 1992, coming off four-straight losses to the Wolverines including a 28-point loss in 1991.

Herbstreit finished 0-3-1 against Michigan in his Ohio State career from 1989-92.

Kirk Herbstreit at the ESPN College GameDay stage outside of Ayres Hall on the University of Tennessee campus in Knoxville, Tenn. on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. The flagship ESPN college football pregame show returned for the tenth time to Knoxville as the No. 12 Vols hosted the No. 22 Gators.

"I left, and Ohio State finally started to win a game or two," Herbstreit said. "I know, just watching, what it did to Ohio State to be like 'finally.' We had that moment of 'It's not a mental thing. We can do this.'"

Since Jim Tressel arrived in 2001, the narrative of the Ohio State vs. Michigan rivalry changed, as the Buckeyes have won 17 of the last 20 meetings against the Wolverines under Tressel, Meyer and Ryan Day.

With Michigan coming in with a win for the first time since 2012, Herbstreit said the Wolverines still have something to prove against Ohio State.

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"The only thing that would be left now is go into Columbus, go into the Shoe, deal with the hostility," Herbstreit said.

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Herbstreit grew up a fan of the Michigan and Ohio State rivalry.

To him, there's nothing better than when the Buckeyes and the Wolverines face off.

"To me, there's nothing greater than when Ohio State and Michigan get on the field together," Herbstreit said. "I always go back to being a kid. If it can be 42 degrees and overcast, it's perfect for me. I don't like the sun to be out on that day with the uniforms on the field together."

Even the week before Ohio State vs. Michigan, Herbstreit said he was pulling for the Wolverines against Illinois so that "The Game" would have the "winner-take-all vibe."

While he said there is a scenario where Ohio State and Michigan could still both make the College Football Playoff, Herbstreit feels that this next meeting between the two rivals still feels like one where everything is on the line.

"I don't know if it's truly winner-take-all, but it certainly feels that way when you show up undefeated vs undefeated and everything on the table," Herbstreit said. "Both teams want to win this game. They've been building everything to get to this point."

And even with the expansion of the College Football Playoff and the Big Ten bringing a possibility that Ohio State could play Michigan multiple times in the same season, Herbstreit doesn't see the weight of "The Game" changing.

"I think there's so much history there and so much meaning every single year that it's hard to imagine it ever losing the intensity that we enjoy," Herbstreit said.

"I think Ohio State Michigan (and) these others are still always going to be what they are."

Ohio State football's 2022 schedule

Michigan football's 2022 schedule

  • Sept. 3: Michigan 51, Colorado State 7
  • Sept. 10: Michigan 56, Hawaii 10
  • Sept. 17: Michigan 59, UConn 0
  • Sept. 24: Michigan 34, Maryland 27
  • Oct. 1: Michigan 27, Iowa 14
  • Oct. 8: Michigan 31, Indiana 10
  • Oct. 15: Michigan 41, Penn State 17
  • Oct. 29: Michigan 29, Michigan State 7
  • Nov. 5: Michigan 52, Rutgers 17
  • Nov. 12: Michigan 34, Nebraska 3
  • Nov. 19: Michigan 19, Illinois 17
  • Nov. 26: Michigan vs. Ohio State, Columbus, Ohio, noon

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