Ohio State is having its best season ever. Michigan isn't.
The Buckeyes are a victory away from getting a chance to win their first national championship since 1968. The Wolverines, win or lose, probably will end up in the Outback or Capital One Bowl.
What a perfect setup for one of college football's greatest rivalries -- Michigan at Ohio State on Saturday. Michigan has nothing to lose, Ohio State everything.
"I've been waiting all year for this," Michigan cornerback Marlin Jackson said.
You're not alone, Marlin.
The stakes have rarely been higher for one team in the storied history of this series. A win, and the Buckeyes finish 13-0 and clinch a spot in the BCS national title game in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 3. A loss would be a knockout blow -- they not only fall out of the title game, they fail to win the Big Ten, and Iowa ends up in the Rose Bowl.
History says Ohio State has little chance under such circumstances.
From 1986-97, there were five occasions when an Ohio State victory over Michigan would have sent the Buckeyes to the Rose Bowl. The Wolverines won all five -- in 1997, 1995, 1993, 1990 and 1986. In '96, Michigan spoiled Ohio State's perfect season, but the Buckeyes had already clinched a Rose Bowl berth.
With so much bad karma, along with the uncertain status of injured star tailback Maurice Clarett, it's easy to see why so many people believe Ohio State is ready to fall yet again.
But it won't happen this year, not under second-year coach Jim Tressel.
There's no Michigan Week panic in Tressel the way there was under former coach John Cooper. Coop, who turned into Mr. Uptight when the Michigan game rolled around, was 109-33-3 against everyone but the Wolverines. He was 2-10-1 against Michigan, and it cost him his job.
Tressel came over from Youngstown State, where he won four I-AA national titles.
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