COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Urban Meyer remembers his mother bundling him up against the cold and whisking him out of the house to introduce him to what would one day be a major event in his life.
''She said we have to go run an errand or something. She looked like she was out of her mind,'' he said, grinning at the thought of his first Michigan-Ohio State game. ''We went to some outdoor area, like a mall. They were playing The Game' over the loudspeakers. And I'll never forget that as long as I live, listening to (former Buckeyes) Pete Johnson and Archie Griffin and the boys.''
From an early age, kids in Ohio and Michigan are tutored in what happens every year in late November in the cold of a massive stadium on either side of the state line. The tales of past games are legend: Bo Schembechler being carried off the field in `69, the Snow Bowl in `50, even Tyvis Powell's game-saving interception in a 42-41 Ohio State win a year ago.
The bitter rivals - if you doubt that, remember three players were tossed out last year for fighting - meet for the 111th time when the Wolverines (5-6, 3-4 Big Ten) try to salvage their season and coach Brady Hoke's job when they take on the Buckeyes (10-1, 7-0, No. 6 CFP).
No. 7 Ohio State is playing to remain in the national championship picture.
Hoke, like Meyer, also grew up in Ohio and was steeped in the traditions of the annual showdown.
''Winning that last game always means a lot,'' he said. ''I do not think there is ever a time where it has not meant something. You want to be able to go back and say, My senior year we beat Ohio.''
Here are some things to watch for at Ohio Stadium:
BARRETT MANIA: Back in August when QB Braxton Miller went down for the year with a shoulder injury, Buckeyes fans expected the worse. They've gotten the best.
J.T. Barrett, a freshman, has been a godsend, setting Ohio State records for TD passes (33) and total offense (3,507 yards).
But Barrett has never played in The Game, which makes some rookies' knees buckle.
''I know what rivalry games are like,'' he said. ''(But) you never know what to expect in a high-emotion game.''
DOMINANT DEFENSE: Lost in an otherwise mediocre season, Michigan's defense is ninth in the nation in total D and seventh in the country in fewest yards given up per rush.
The defenders are also on alert, knowing what's at stake.
''We try to do as much as possible to win the game,'' S Jarrod Wilson said. ''If they don't score, they don't win.''
FAVORITE'S ROLE: The Buckeyes are favored by 20 points but, then again, they were picked by oddsmakers to win by 14 1/2 a year ago. And we know how that turned out.
LOOKING AHEAD: Michigan loses and its season ends. Ohio State loses and it still will play for the Big Ten title a week later in Indianapolis against the Minnesota-Wisconsin winner.
Should the Wolverines win, they are at least eligible to go to a bowl although they might not accept a bid. Win, and the Buckeyes likely would remain a top contender for the initial CFP four-team tournament.
NOT A LOT OF UPSETS: This is the 111th meeting, but there haven't really been many major upsets. The last time a team with a losing record won was 1959 - when Michigan beat an Ohio State team that also had a sub-.500 record.
Not since 1951 has a team with more losses than wins beaten one with a winning record, when Bennie Oosterbaan's Wolverines stunned the Buckeyes 7-0 to finish 4-5. The Buckeyes went 4-3-2 under a driven first-year coach who was burned in effigy in Columbus. But that coach, Woody Hayes, would help turn just another big game into the grudge match it is today.
''I've grown up in Michigan. This game has been my favorite game to watch more so than any other sporting event,'' Wolverines DL Brennen Beyer said. ''So much history, so much tension.''
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