COLUMBUS – Names don’t matter. Braxton Miller can still see the play in his mind even if he can’t remember the name of the guy who made it.
Ohio State had the ball fourth and two at Michigan State’s 39-yard line with a 27-24 lead with just under six minutes to play in last year’s Big Ten championship game.
Miller ran to his right. If he got two yards, Ohio State might be in position to clinch the game and earn a trip to the national championship game. He got one yard.
“I saw how that linebacker (Denicos Allen) made that play. It was like he knew the play before we called the play,” Miller said at the Big Ten football media days.
Any momentum OSU had before that play evaporated and, of course, Michigan State went on to win 34-24.
There can be no bigger rival for Ohio State than Michigan in terms of history and tradition. OSU coach Urban Meyer calls that “non-negotiable.”
“There is one rival. That will never change,” Meyer says.
But since that night in December in Indianapolis, Ohio State against Michigan State has gone from a nice, simmering little rivalry to the next closest thing to a Michigan game on the Buckeyes’ calendar.
Michigan State might be Joe Biden and Prince Harry to Michigan’s commander in chief and future king, but they’re still a big deal.
The rematch in prime time Nov. 8 in East Lansing appears to be something of a grudge match on both sides.
Ohio State knows what it lost last year and Michigan State knows what it still hasn’t gained. Even though the Spartans beat Ohio State, had a better record and have the same number of starters returning as OSU this season, it’s nearly impossible to find a preseason prediction that has them ranked above the Buckeyes.
“Our goal is to get back to Indianapolis (for the Big Ten championship game),” Ohio State tight end Jeff Heuerman said. “Last year they kept us from winning that. Anytime you lose a championship game, it heightens the rivalry.”
Defensive lineman Michael Bennett joked that “The whole state of Michigan is starting to get on our nerves.”
“Michigan State was a fun little rivalry and they were a good team to play, but they’re starting to push their luck now. It couldn’t be Iowa or someone. Both of those teams (Michigan and Michigan State) are a problem for us year in and year out. That’s what creates rivalries.
“No matter what happens, it (Ohio State’s biggest rival) will always be the team up north. Now if you said circle another game it would most definitely be Michigan State,” Bennett said.
Heuerman stopped short of talking about circling the MSU game but said, “Obviously, you know it’s there on the schedule. It’s not something you overlook. But it’s not something you can spend a whole lot of time on right now.
“You don’t completely overlook it but it’s not like we’re already breaking down Michigan State every week,” he said.