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Everything else pales as Michigan game approaches

Published on NewsOK Modified: November 24, 2013 at 8:24 pm •  Published: November 24, 2013
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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio State defensive lineman Noah Spence is from Harrisburg, Pa.

He wasn't steeped in the enmity that grips fans of the Buckeyes and Wolverines about this time every year.

But now in his second season in the heart of Ohio, he has a good grasp of it now.

"It's a huge rivalry even if you're a guy from out of state like me," he said.

Then he added, "It's everything."

Ohio State and Michigan clash for the 110th time on Saturday, at Michigan Stadium. It's already been a long, grueling season. But, as it should be, the best and biggest game has been saved for last.

Ohio State (11-0, 7-0), which moved up to No. 3 in all major rankings on Sunday, won its school-record 23rd straight game and also earned a spot in the Big Ten championship game with a 42-14 win over Indiana in snow-globe conditions at Ohio Stadium on Saturday.

Almost immediately, the Buckeyes' thoughts turned to the opponent that — like Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter books — no one in Ohio refers to by name. Instead, they follow the lead of late coach/curmudgeon Woody Hayes and call it "That School (or Team) Up North."

From a distance, it might look like a trap game: The Buckeyes have little to play for beyond holding on to what they've already got — an unbeaten season and conference and national title aspirations.

On top of that, the Wolverines (7-4, 3-4) have lost four of their last six games and have had major problems running the ball and scoring points.

But in a rivalry the size of "The Game," it's almost impossible for one team to look past another even though the Buckeyes have another major showdown a week later when they face No. 11 Michigan State in the Big Ten title game on Dec. 7 in Indianapolis.

"There's no chance of us overlooking a team from here on out," Buckeyes defensive tackle Michael Bennett said. "You've got That Team Up North, the Big Ten championship and whatever comes after that.

"Every week from here on out is a bowl week."

Urban Meyer won his first Michigan-Ohio State game as a head coach a year ago, 26-21, by shutting out the Wolverines in the second half and edging past them on two field goals by Drew Basil.

Moments after his team beat Indiana, Meyer said there was not time to waste to get ready for Michigan (although, of course, he did not speak that word).

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