July 28, 2013

Big Ten title game could feature rivalry

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- With division realignment going into effect in 2014, the upcoming college football season will provide Ohio State and Michigan with one last chance to make Big Ten history.

While the Buckeyes and Wolverines have spent each of the past two seasons in separate divisions, both teams are yet to have made an appearance in either of the first two Big Ten Championship Games. The 2013 conference title game will be the last that has the potential for Ohio State and Michigan to play each other in it, with the two programs set to join the same division in 2014.

While a potential Big Ten Championship Game between the Buckeyes and Wolverines would mean the two squads playing each other just a week after their annual regular season finale, Michigan head coach Brady Hoke has no qualms about the possibility of playing his program's biggest rival in consecutive weeks. In fact, he'd actual enjoy it.

"It would be good for the league," Hoke said at the Big Ten media days in Chicago last week. "Playing in that game, you know what the next game is. I don't see it being a problem. It's still Ohio."

While Hoke added that playing Ohio State two weeks in a row would only "be fun as long as you win," both players from the Buckeyes and Wolverines found themselves in rare agreement by stating that playing each other in consecutive weeks would be exciting.

"People who watch the sport of football, they know what type of rivalry Michigan-Ohio State is," Buckeyes senior safety Christian Bryant said. "Playing them back-to-back weeks, that'd be a big deal."

Added Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner: "It'd be great. The greatest rivalry in football, it'd be the one opportunity to do it. It'd be great for me as a first tim starter and in my first year of college football starting a full year. It'd be great for me to make history and my teammates. That'd be history for our team and they'd have to talk about our team a lot around Schembechler Hall."

While playing for the right to represent the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl -- or even something bigger -- would be rewarding, both players from Ohio State and Michigan know that it would come at a price. The Game is already known of one of college football's most physical affairs, and playing it twice in two weeks would likely only intensify it's brutality.

"I feel like the second game would be a lot more intense, because we would know exactly what's on the line in the Big Ten Championship. Knowing that that would determine if we maybe go to the National Championship Game or the Rose Bowl," Bryant said. "I feel like both teams would come to play. With Michigan, it's a rivalry game, and they're not just going to sit down and let us run all over them."

Michigan safety Thomas Gordon agreed.

"You'd be so tired after that whole process," Gordon said. "The amount of preparation you put in for that team, and everybody outside practice pouring in to talk to you, it'd be a lot."

In the unlikely, albeit possible, situation that both the Buckeyes and Wolverines have their respective divisions locked up heading into their Nov. 30 matchup in Ann Arbor, Mich., both Hoke and OSU head coach Urban Meyer stated that they wouldn't hold anything back from a strategy standpoint in their first meeting. "I don't think you can," Meyer said.

But would playing each other twice in such a short timespan cheapen the value of one of college football's top rivalries? According to Gardner, absolutely not.

"The fire will always be there," Gardner said. "It's The Game, no matter if we play them at Lucas Oil Stadium or we play them in the backyard at Inkster High School. If we play Ohio State, it's going to be The Game no matter how many times we play them."


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