The Wolverine

August 2019

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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82 THE WOLVERINE AUGUST 2019 BY CHRIS BALAS F our days before his death in November 2006, Bo Schembechler took the podium for what would be the last time to address reporters. The subject was Michigan-Ohio State, the No. 1 Buckeyes versus the No. 2 Wolverines in what was billed the showdown of the decade, and U-M's former coach was fired up. "People always ask me, 'Did you do something extra to prepare for Ohio State?'" he recalled (paraphrasing). Despite his declining health, the twinkle returned to his eye. He leaned forward and in typical Schembechler fashion, his weakened voice regaining its gruff edge, made it clear: "Every day!" It was never quite as intense as it was during his first season, the 1969 contest against mentor Woody Hayes that put Michigan football firmly back on the map after his Wolverines upset the so-called "team of the century" 24-12. It never went away, though, and was one of the reasons Schem- bechler was able to compile a 5-4-1 record against his mentor and a 11-9-1 mark overall against the Buckeyes. The late Dave Brown, All-Ameri- can safety (1973, '74), recalled how it had been so ingrained in him that on summer weekend nights, rather than grabbing a pizza and hang- ing out with the "regular" students on campus, he would tell himself, "What do you think Ohio State players [at his position] were doing that night to prepare for us?" … and then he'd run five miles in searing heat to go the extra mile. The preparation was passed down from Schembechler to Gary Moeller and Lloyd Carr. OSU's John Cooper, however, never seemed to get it, one of the reasons he finished 2-10-1 against U-M in his 13 seasons. Jim Tressel did, and when he ar- rived in Columbus in 2001, one of his players told us during Big Ten Media Days his first message to his team: "That losing to 'The Team Up North' ends now." It did, and while it was helped along by rules transgressions that would eventually get him fired, Tressel ended with a 9-1 record against the Wolverines and the re- instilling of the one core value — do anything and everything, every day you can, to "Beat The Team Up North" — that remains to this day. New head coach Ryan Day is more reserved than his predeces- sors Tressel and Urban Meyer, but the expectations about winning The Game haven't changed. Day made that clear on the unofficial first day of college football season to many fans, Big Ten Media Days in Chicago July 18. "The thing I learned from Urban right from the minute I got there — you've got to work The Game every day. The way to honor the rivalry and to respect the rivalry is to work it every day, and we do," he said, noting there are specific 'Michigan drills' they do at the end of every practice and workout. Wide receiver K.J. Hill also made it clear it was going to be hard to outwork them when it came to the last regular-season game of the year. "Right now, we're training in the offseason, and we do workouts for them. Push-ups, sit-ups, everything in the name of them, called the Team Up North workout," he said. "It's at the end of every work- out on Thursday when you're tired, got finishers outside, got punching bags with the 'M' on there. "Everything we do is for them." And it never stops, he added. He wasn't all that surprised by last year's 62-39 victory in Columbus, he said, though he did give Michigan credited as a "great team," saying they knew what they were in for. "But it started in January to go against them," he said. "I feel like that's the advantage we've got over them. Each and every year we've just got to attack it because last year is over now." Only this time, Michigan isn't shy- ing away from such talk. They keep it in house, senior guard Ben Brede- son said, but they have their own stuff for the Buckeyes. Senior linebacker Khaleke Hud- son agreed, adding they still keep their eyes on the day to day. They have to given that they have three rivals on the schedule. But they're confident, and it starts up top. U-M was chosen to finish first in the Big Ten, and head coach Jim Harbaugh embraced it. "That's where I would pick us," Harbaugh said matter-of-factly. The swag has returned, but the road to Indy still goes through Ohio State. It is past time to look the bully in the eye, then punch him square in the nose and make this a rivalry again. ❑ Chris Balas has been with The Wolver- ine since 1997, working part time for five years before joining the staff full time in 2002. Contact him at cbalas@ and follow him on Twitter @Balas_Wolverine. INSIDE MICHIGAN   CHRIS BALAS Time To Walk The Walk Head coach Jim Harbaugh and his Wolverines know that the road to a Big Ten championship goes through Ohio State. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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