Buckeyes close to perfection; Michigan in way

Associated Press Modified: November 21, 2012 at 4:32 pm •  Published: November 21, 2012
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Earle Bruce succeeded the legendary Woody Hayes as Ohio State's head coach in 1979 and guided his first team to 11 consecutive wins, including a win over Michigan, before losing the national championship by a point to Southern California in the Rose Bowl.

A team that's hoping to make a name for itself by ruining its adversary's faultless record is misguided, he said.

"If that's the case, they're doing it the wrong way, aren't they?" he said. "You do it for the good of you, not the detriment of someone else. That's not good focus."

Michigan's fifth-year senior center Elliott Mealer, an Ohio native, believes too much is made of the ancillary things off the field.

"I don't think there's any way to raise or lower the bar for this game," Mealer said. "It's always important, it's always intense."

If the rivalry takes on even more relevance for Ohio State's players this season, it's because it's their final game. NCAA sanctions for violations committed under former coach Jim Tressel include a bowl ban. So, with no chance to play in the Big Ten title game, the BCS national championship or any postseason game, there is little left except to maintain perfection.

Asked what a 12-0 mark would mean — particularly coming on the heels of an embarrassing 6-7 record including a Michigan loss last year — senior linebacker Etienne Sabino had difficulty answering.

"I don't know if words can (express it)," he said. "Every year you set out to win every game. That's your goal. That's the dream for every athlete in every sport. To have a chance to do that ... We're 11-0 with one game in front of us. If, at the end of this game, we can do what we're supposed to do it's going to be amazing."

It's been 33 years since Bruce's No. 2-ranked Buckeyes took on No. 13 Michigan on a bright but cold day at The Big House.

It seems like just last week to the 81-year-old, as all of the memories from that cherished 18-15 victory come flooding back. Jim Laughlin's blocked punt. Scoring a touchdown against the maize-and-blue for the first time in four years. Climbing to No. 1 in the polls. Clinching a berth in the Rose Bowl.

"Those are the things I remember," Bruce said softly.

Perhaps in time such reflections matter. Right now, for those involved, there are more fundamental things to worry about: stopping the run, no mistakes in special teams, reining in the emotion and doing your job.

"I've been coaching for a while now, and there's nothing you can control other than getting ready to go play the game," Meyer said. "You learn that along the journey. If it was the first rodeo, I'd be worried about this, worried about that.

"I am concerned, but you've got to move forward and do the best you can."

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AP Sports Writer Larry Lage in Ann Arbor, Mich., contributed to this report.

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