When Ohio State redshirt junior H-back Parris Campbell heads to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center for practice Sunday afternoon, he expects to hear only one song: “Time for war,” which he called head coach Urban Meyer’s theme song.
“It’s literally played from the time we walk in the Woody to the time we walk out, the whole entire week,” Campbell said. “Everything’s going to be ramped up, for sure.”
After the No. 9 Buckeyes’ 52-14 victory against Illinois, redshirt senior center Billy Price said every Big Ten contest brings the same challenges. Games are always physical, rugged and intense, he said.
That does not change this week, as Ohio State begins to prepare for Michigan. But everything is amped up heading into what every Buckeye who spoke after the game called the greatest rivalry in college football.
“Whenever we play a game, after that game is over, for the most part [Meyer] gives us our next mission, which is the next team,” redshirt senior linebacker Chris Worley said. “Make no mistake about it, he definitely put a little more emphasis on that.”
When the public address announcer recognized the senior class prior to 19 seniors playing their final game at Ohio Stadium Saturday afternoon, he noted they beat Michigan in every year of their careers, which elicited a large ovation from the tens of thousands of fans in attendance.
Ohio State versus Michigan means everything to both programs. Losing is not an option. Worley compared the directive to beat the Wolverines as a law.
“To beat the team up north, that’s kind of like, that better happen,” he said. “It’s kind of like, that’s my law. You don’t break that law. You better beat the team up north.”
Redshirt senior J.T. Barrett will look to become the first quarterback in the history of the rivalry to win four games as the starting quarterback. He views the storied matchup in a similar lens as Worley.
“The bottom line is, when you play the team up north, go out there and win,” Barrett said.
Michigan entered the year with lower expectations than it had last season. It entered the season with just five returning starters. But with losses to Michigan State and Penn State earlier in the season, and a 24-10 road defeat at the hands of Wisconsin, the Wolverines lack momentum when they play host to the Buckeyes at noon Saturday.
Regardless of the recent lack of success, Ohio State will not take Michigan lightly. Senior left tackle Jamarco Jones said he has not even considered playing Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship because the Wolverines have been on his mind.
“That’s a battle every year in the trenches. Every year, they come out ready and that’s where the game is usually won in,” Jones said. “We know we’re going to be in a hostile environment and we’re going to have to get used to some crowd noise and just be on the same page as the unit this week, because it’s going to take all five of us on the same page every play to get this job done against the defensive front that they have.”
He said he wants a fourth pair of gold pants, something Buckeye players earn after defeating Michigan.
Ohio State’s mantra the entire season has been focus; laser-like focus on the next opponent. As the final second ticked off the clock on Saturday, that focus, which Meyer said after the Illinois games he loved, turned from Illinois to Michigan.
“Our focus is on celebrate this win with your family and friends and let’s get back to business,” Meyer said. “It’s rivalry week. Say that ten times. It’s officially started.”