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Wolverines say they'll ignore the hate, stay focused

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — Michigan players have regaled listeners over the years with stories about the bus ride into Ohio Stadium, the arms-wide-open greetings, the smiles, the jovial reception.

OK, so that's not really what it's like at all.

Those moments when the Michigan buses drive toward the stadium with Ohio State fans crowded in, sending clear messages with particular gestures and shouting unprintable comments, are part of the buildup to "The Game."

"There's nothing I've never seen, but hey, if they want to do that and they think it gets to us, then do it," said senior linebacker Jake Ryan, an Ohio native. "People are ruthless. It's just a whole different atmosphere at Ohio State."

That atmosphere will be on full display at Ohio Stadium Saturday when the rivals meet for the 111th time. Michigan is 5-6, needing a win to become bowl eligible, while Ohio State, a 20-point favorite, is looking to win for the ninth time in the last 10 meetings and remain in the national playoff picture.

The bottom line in this series: There's no love lost.

"The feeling's mutual (between) both schools," Cincinnati native Joe Bolden said Tuesday.

Bolden has been to nearly every stadium in the Big Ten, and he said the reception for the Wolverines has been fairly consistent.

"Nobody likes you — you're the opposing team," Bolden said. "(It's) just maybe a little bit more when you drive into Columbus."

Everything is bigger when Michigan and Ohio State play.

Last season in Ann Arbor, the Big Ten Network cameras captured the Michigan Stadium tunnel before the game with the Wolverines pounding on the locker room door demanding to be let out. They burst out the door and began yelling at and taunting Ohio State players who were walking toward their locker room and had to be held back.

"We always want to go out on the field," Ryan said. "We always have had that, pound on the door to get out, but Ohio State is more of the 'We want to get out there and play' mentality."

Last season tempers flared and a fight broke out on the field. Three players were ejected.

Ryan chalked that up to the intensity of the rivalry and vowed Michigan will be "smarter" about getting involved in anything like that on Saturday.

"It's a very tough, hard-nosed, they-don't-like-us, we-don't-like-them rivalry," Ryan said.

Running back Drake Johnson said the Wolverines have had a "laser-like" focus this week and watched more film than usual.

But the focus the last few weeks, particularly since the home loss to Maryland last Saturday, has been on Michigan coach Brady Hoke and his future.

Ryan said while players can't avoid the speculation, they remain focused on the regular-season finale.

"You do hear stuff and read stuff, but we're not thinking about that at all," Ryan said. "That's the last of our worries. As a team, we're behind coach Hoke 100 percent. All our focus right now is Ohio."

Michigan at Ohio State

Kickoff: Noon Saturday, Ohio Stadium, Columbus

TV/radio: ABC/WWJ

Records: Michigan 5-6 (3-4 Big Ten), No. 7 Ohio State 10-1 (7-0)

Line: Ohio State by 20

Did you know? The teams have played every year since 1918, the 10th-longest uninterrupted series in Division I history.