Corey Linsley was skeptical when he was told the Michigan game would be unlike anything he experienced before in his career, but he was turned into a believer after a few snaps.
A two-year starter at center for Ohio State, Linsley played only on the field goal-unit in the 2011 game, and he wasn’t impressed with the Wolverines while scouting them on film before the 2012 clash.
“I kind of went into the game with the mindset that I had to play hard, but that this wasn’t going to be overly difficult,” the senior from Youngstown said. “But they came off the ball the first couple of plays, and I was like ‘This is what everybody was talking about. This is what they mean when they say this week is different.’
“They played to the highest level that I had ever seen them play on film. It was a grind, it was a battle, and I’m sure it’s going to be the exact same way this year. I would expect nothing less.”
The Buckeyes will be going to Ann Arbor as 15 1/2-point favorites, but they’re treating the game as if the Wolverines have just as much at stake as they do.
Their preparation this week started a day early with scouting reports and film study on Sunday as opposed to them being allowed a 24-hour window to revel in their blowout victory over Indiana.
“You walk in our facility, and you see all kinds of banners, music playing, everything reminding us and pumping us up — not that we need it. It’s definitely there just as a backup plan, I guess,” Linsley said.
“The environment is completely different. It’s kind of a cliché at this point to say it, but it’s 100 percent true: It’s a different week this week.”
Michigan actually is never far from the players’ minds. Though not all of them will admit it, the Buckeyes tend to keep track of how the Wolverines are doing and, like fans, probably don’t mind seeing them struggle.
“We’re always checking the (Michigan) score,” Linsley said. “The stands always go nuts if they lose if we’re at home, so it’s always in the back of our mind.
“We’re obviously focused on whatever opponent we have that week, but I always kind of flip on their game if I get a chance to watch it, just to kind of scheme them up a little bit and see how they’re playing.”
The Buckeyes (11-0, 7-0 Big Ten) have already clinched a spot in the Big Ten title game and will be looking to stay in the national title race when the teams meet Saturday, while the Wolverines (7-4, 3-4) will view the game as a chance at a season-salvaging win.
Offensive line woes have led to inconsistency on offense. The Wolverines racked up a school-record 751 total yards in a 63-47 win over Indiana on Oct. 19, but they’ve amassed a combined 866 yards in the four games since then.
Their defense has been ranked in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten. The unit is fifth in yards allowed (353.0) and seventh in points (25.1).
“They have a lot of great players, tough guys,” left tackle Jack Mewhort said. “That’s the Big Ten for you — good D-line, tough linebackers. We’re going into it with a smash-mouth mentality. If you want to go on the road and win a big rivalry game in the Big Ten, you have to bring your rushing attack.
“That’s something we take pride in and, hopefully, when we go up there, we’re prepared for everything they have.”
Michigan’s defensive coordinator is Greg Mattison, who was on coach Urban Meyer’s staff at Florida from 2005-07. He helped the Gators win a national title as co-defensive coordinator and D-line coach during his time there.
“When you watch film before you go home at night, you’re thinking, ‘How are we going to block these guys?’ ” Meyer said. “I think they’re very well-coached. Obviously, I’m very close with the D-coordinator, and I think he’s a great coach.
“They’re playing very hard. They have excellent players. So whatever issues our rival has, it has nothing to do with their defense. Their defense is playing at a very, very high level. We have to play our best game to move the ball against these guys.”
Records could fall: The Buckeyes are averaging 530.9 yards per game and are on pace to break the Big Ten record of 512.7 set by Penn State in 1994. They have 5,840 total yards. They’ll need 739 in their last three games to break Wisconsin’s conference mark of 6,578 set in 2011.
Their point average of 48.7 will shatter the school record of 42.6 from 1969 and is fourth-best in Big Ten history. The league record is 58.5 by Michigan in 1902.
Ohio State (11-0, 7-0 Big Ten) at Michigan (7-4, 3-4), noon, ABC, 1410