Advertisement

 COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Things were right on target for another great Ohio State-Michigan showdown that could send the Buckeyes back to the BCS national championship game.
Then along came Illinois.
The Illini's 28-21 upset of No. 1-ranked Ohio State (10-1, 6-1 Big Ten) has taken a lot of the steam out of this week's annual regular season-ending grudge match with Michigan (8-3, 6-1). For their part, the Wolverines also tuned up for the showdown with a loss, at Wisconsin.
Sure, an outright Big Ten title's still on the line. And the Rose Bowl is still a nice consolation prize. But the Buckeyes' first defeat in 21 conference games and first setback in 29 regular-season games sure has draped a wet blanket over all the excitement.
``Definitely we know the national championship is out of the picture,'' starting quarterback Todd Boeckman said glumly.
Now the Buckeyes have to lower their sights somewhat, from playing for No. 1 in the nation to playing for No. 1 in the conference.
Coach Jim Tressel said he wouldn't try to prevent his players from looking back at the Illinois game.
``We do need to look back and improve upon what we didn't do,'' he said. ``So I would hope we don't forget where we need to do better and what the lessons learned from that game are.
``Now, if we sit there and that's all we're thinking about is that, then we're not going to be ready to go and obviously that will hurt us. But I think our guys will be able to focus on the task at hand because this is Ohio State-Michigan.''
The Buckeyes have dominated the 104-game series with Michigan recently, with Tressel going 5-1 against the Wolverines and his coaching counterpart, Lloyd Carr, since taking over in Columbus. Ohio State has also won the last three matchups. A win Saturday would give Ohio State only its third four-game winning streak in the series, the others coming in 1934-37 and 1960-63.
The toughest selling job for the seniors and the coaching staff is convincing the Buckeyes that they still have a lot to play for.
``I think (offensive tackle) Kirk Barton wrote it on the white board yesterday,'' linebacker James Laurinaitis said. ``He said, 'It doesn't matter what our record is, don't think about what bowl game you have a possibility of going to, don't think about anything like that, the only thing that matters is this Saturday.'''
In fact, Carr was asked what he would be telling his team this week.
``I'll save that for my team,'' he said with a laugh. ``I mean I think it's about opportunity. I think it's about appreciating the opportunity to represent Michigan. For many of them to play in their last game in this stadium against our great rivals.''
Barton said Monday that there would always be some heat between the two teams.
``At Michigan, you sense the hate, which is kind of a good thing,'' he said.
He added, ``It's kind of exciting because you want to see how guys react when they've been punched. That's kind of where we're at right now. I think we're ready to go because we realize what's at stake.''
Boeckman is in his first year as Ohio State's starting quarterback. He said he was at a loss as to how to handle what happened against Illinois.
``This is the first game I've lost, so I don't know,'' he said. ``You really can't dwell on the past. I'm the leader of this football team and I can't be looking down if something goes wrong. I've got to stay positive.''
And that goes for both teams, clawing back from losses heading into their biggest game of the season.

Recent NCAAF Discussions

Advertisement
Advertisement

NCAAF Headlines

More inNCAAF News  

NCAAF Top Stories

Thumbnail Utah Season Win Total Prediction After winning 10 games a year ago will the Utah Utes suffer a setback after going through a transition offensively?
Thumbnail Texas A&M Season Win Total Prediction As recently as a couple of years ago, Texas A&M fans would’ve laughed at the notion of a make-or-break season for Kevin Sumlin. Three straight disappointments,...
Thumbnail Washington Win Total Prediction After losing six times in each of Chris Petersen's first two seasons, are the Washington Huskies a good bet to win more than 9 games in 2016?
Thumbnail Mississippi State Season Win Total Prediction When a player like Dak Prescott comes along, college football devotees simply have to lap up every breathtaking snap. The Mississippi State faithful...
Thumbnail Arkansas Season Win Total Prediction Few teams in college football ended the 2015 season with more momentum than the Arkansas Razorbacks. Now that the word is out, though,...
More inNCAAF Articles  

NCAAF Team Pages