|ESPN.com: Big Ten||[Print without images]|
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- They say The Game has lost its flavor this year, with Michigan slipping to historic lows and Ohio State getting closer to another Big Ten title. But to the folks who make an annual pilgrimage to see college football's greatest rivalry, it still means plenty.
The parking lots were packed this morning, and tailgating was in full swing around The Shoe, despite frigid temperatures. My flight from Chicago was full of Ohio State fans, and there were a decent amount of Michigan fans in my hotel and around the stadium. That's dedication. Some interesting T-shirts around here. One Ohio State tailgate displayed the shirt "Michigan Still Sucks" like a flag. And I saw several fans wearing the less subtle version of the "Muck Fichigan" shirts I've seen before.
Ohio State enters its 105th meeting against Michigan with a 9-2 record and ranked 10th in the BCS standings. The Buckeyes can clinch a share of the Big Ten title with a victory, and they'll head to the Rose Bowl with a win and a Penn State loss to Michigan State. After a drama-filled September, Ohio State finally seems to have found its identity, particularly on the offensive side with Terrelle Pryor and Chris "Beanie" Wells. Michigan's top priority today will be containing Wells, who is flat-out dominant in cold-weather games.
Michigan sustained its school-record eighth loss last week and will end its season with The Game for the first time since 1974. It has been a struggle in every sense for first-year head coach Rich Rodriguez, who didn't help himself with some comments earlier this week. The Wolverines are 20.5-point underdogs today, the largest spread in the history of The Game. To have any chance, they'll need to avoid any turnovers on offense and find a way to stop Pryor and Wells. Sophomore Nick Sheridan makes his third consecutive start at quarterback.
It won't be easy for Rodriguez to watch Pryor, who picked Ohio State over Michigan despite a chance to start right away for the Wolverines. Michigan's defense is decent against the run, but it will need to be more than decent today.
The weather calls for temperatures in the high 20s and low 30s, light winds and no snow. They won't be so lucky in State College.
As always, I'll be tracking the other Big Ten games today, particularly No. 15 Michigan State at No. 8 Penn State (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET). We also will have coverage from that game.