Ohio State won some hardware Saturday afternoon with a 28-17 win over Penn State.
Before arrangements could be made for another Big Ten East division trophy to be delivered to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, the Buckeyes’ thoughts were already on a different award.
Those go to Ohio State players when they beat Michigan, and another set will be on the line this week when the Buckeyes travel to Ann Arbor to play the surging Wolverines in Michigan Stadium.
“We don’t have to talk about how big of a week this is,” center Josh Myers said. “There’s just so much on the line when you play them, and this is a year-round thing for us. This is something we’ve been talking about since January.”
That was not news to anyone who pays close attention to Ohio State, but head coach Ryan Day confirmed it anyway for a national writer in the postgame press conference that followed the win over the Nittany Lions, who came into the game ranked ninth and harboring their own Big Ten championship hopes that were dashed.
“We live it every day, ‘The Team Up North’ is something that we talk about every single day,” Day said. “And the best way to respect a rivalry is to work it every day. And we do.”
A New Hampshire native who joined the Ohio State staff as an assistant almost three years ago, Day has taken cues from former boss Urban Meyer, an Ohio native who retired in January with a 7-0 mark against the Wolverines.
Myers, who was a highly regarded recruit at Miamisburg and longtime Ohio State commit before enrolling in January 2017, is excited for his first start in the rivalry that is widely considered the best in sports.
“I can’t wait,” he said. “It’s something I’ve dreamed about.
“It presents that level of respect for the opponent when it’s all you hear year round. It’s constantly in your mind. It’s something that’s been planted there since I was 18 and walked into the weight room the first day.”
Day has said all the right things since taking over for Meyer, and he has maintained many of Meyer’s ways of dealing with Michigan.
That includes banning blue shirts in the team facility and forbidding use of that “M” word, a practice Meyer borrowed from Hayes, the Ohio State coach from 1951-78 who went 16-11-1 against the Wolverines to tie Michigan’s Fielding Yost for the most coaching wins in the series.
The Buckeyes also have a “Maize and Blue period” in practice to keep the Wolverines somewhere in their minds throughout the year, something Jim Tressel started when he became head coach of the Buckeyes in 2001 and began a shocking period that has seen them win 16 of the last 18 against the Wolverines.
Ohio State will head north looking to extend its winning streak in the series to eight games, which would be a record for the Scarlet and Gray.
If the Buckeyes are able to do that, getting their first serious challenge of the season from the Nittany Lions might have something to do with it.
“I think you have their attention now,” Day said after watching his team lose three fumbles against Penn State. “I know that sounds crazy, 11 weeks, 12 weeks into the season but I think you do.
“When you say things to somebody for months at a time and you beat teams by 30 and 40 points, they kind of look at you like, ‘Yeah, I got ya, Coach. We’re good.’ You keep saying it and you keep saying it. And now we're into November, and I think now they can look at you say, ‘OK, Coach, I got ya.’ And it's very unique that we be this far into the season before something like that would happen, but it's true.”
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