COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -This is not just another game for Kris Luchsinger. Or, for that matter, a lot of his Ohio teammates.
The Bobcats' defensive end, a native of Columbus, had to fight his emotions while casually discussing his team's trip to play No. 3 Ohio State on Saturday.
``Growing up I've always been surrounded by Ohio State fans. My dad has always been a big Ohio State fan and he always wanted me to play in that stadium,'' Luchsinger said.
There was a catch in his voice. He apologized.
``Sorry, just thinking about it trembles me up,'' he said.
Emotions take over when you're coming home, so Luchsinger can be forgiven for being overwhelmed. Football has a strong grasp on kids in Ohio, and to some a visit to Ohio Stadium is almost like revisiting their roots, to other autumn Saturdays when they were fans instead of players.
``It's a great atmosphere, it's what college sports are all about. It's going to be good,'' Luchsinger said.
Luchsinger is far from being alone. A total of 61 players on the Bobcats roster are from Ohio and are steeped in the traditions of Ohio State. It makes any showdown between Ohio State and another in-state school special.
Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel, another Ohio native, knows that as well as anyone.
``If I was from Ohio and I was coming into Ohio Stadium to play in this game, I would play better than I've ever played in my life,'' Tressel said.
The Buckeyes (1-0) are favored by five touchdowns. And let's not forget that no in-state opponent has beaten them since 1921. But there are factors that might tip the scales at least a little bit in Ohio's direction.
First, Ohio State is without its No. 1 offensive weapon, tailback Chris ``Beanie'' Wells. He hurt his foot in last week's 43-0 win over Youngstown State and didn't practice this week.
Second, the Buckeyes may well have their heads somewhere warm, with palm trees and starlets and a 90210 ZIP code. A week from Saturday, they play at No. 1-ranked Southern California in one of the season's marquee games.
Linebacker Marcus Freeman acknowledges that the Ohio game could be a trap. But the Buckeyes are focused on the Bobcats, he said.
``I've heard a lot of people say that and a lot of people say, 'This is a chance where you guys can get beat,''' he said. ``But nobody's even talking about USC.''
Ohio coach Frank Solich knows something about powerhouse teams and underdogs playing with emotion. He was an undersized running back at Nebraska, then went on to become an assistant coach to the legendary Tom Osborne and then followed him as head coach for six years.
As Solich - a Cleveland native - looks in his players' eyes, he knows that this game means a little extra.
``There is excitement. Players look toward those types of games,'' he said. ``They want to match up and see where they're at against some of the very best players in the country. If you're an athlete, you want to have those challenges at times in your career - playing a team with as good a tradition as there is out there, and definitely one of the best, if not the best, football teams in the country.''
The Bobcats, who lost their opener at Wyoming 21-20, know that almost no one thinks they have a chance. They have found hope in what another little school did to a megapower just a year ago.
``We're going to believe, but we're also going to know and be confident that if we play our best game we can win this,'' Luchsinger said.
``Appalachian State can beat Michigan. ... Ohio can beat Ohio State.''
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