CHICAGO — Barring another major realignment one day, there could be a first and last in the Big Ten this season.
Ohio State, favored in the Leaders Division and for the overall conference title, and Michigan, expected to contend for the Legends title and a spot in league title game, could play two weeks in a row.
“I think it’s great, especially if you win ’em both,” Michigan coach Brady Hoke said yesterday during Big Ten media days. “I think it would be interesting. I think it would be good for the league. … It’s two programs that have been very important for the Big Ten.”
The Big Two, as they came to be known during the 10-year war when Bo Schembechler was coaching Michigan and Woody Hayes was at Ohio State, will be in the same seven-school East Division starting next year when the league welcomes Rutgers and Maryland. So this might be the last chance for that double dip.Ohio State will play at Michigan on Nov. 30, then the Big Ten championship game is set for Dec. 7.
“Can you imagine the fan bases?” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. “That would be an exhausting two weeks, I can promise you that. … I think it would (be good for the league) but not very good for the health of the coaches. But it would be fine for the fans. It would be great.”
And the intensity on the field?
“I think both games would be equally intense,” Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan said. “It’s the biggest rivalry in sports.”
Ohio State tackle Jack Mewhort, raised in Toledo at the dividing line of the rivalry, agreed.
“Growing up, every time that game came around, there was a huge buzz,” Mewhort said. “So I think to be able to play in that two weeks in a row would be unbelievable.
“It would present some physical and emotional challenges for us, but there is no doubt in my mind this team would stand up to the challenges. I think looking back, to say that we played The Game two weeks in a row would be something I would never forget.”
Darrell Hazell, who was an assistant for several years at Ohio State under Jim Tressel, turned around Kent State in two seasons as coach and is working to do the same thing at Purdue. He started it from the first meeting he had with the team in December.
“There has to be a strong message conveyed to them from day one. This is the way we’re going to do things, period,” Hazell said. “Kids want discipline, and they want direction. And if you can show them how to follow those directions, you’ve got something special. Now you’ve got to have talent, obviously, but they want that direction.”
Speaking of direction, he and his family had to make their second move in three years, and finding a suitable house in West Lafayette, Ind., apparently was not easy.
“I looked at 30 houses — 30,” Hazell said. “ …We didn’t find anything we liked so we decided we’re going to build.”
Riding in style
Ohio State sent quarterback Braxton Miller, safety Christian Bryant and Mewhort to the media days, and in their free time on Wednesday night, they took a walking tour of Michigan Avenue.That is, they walked part of the way.
“We were exploring downtown,” Miller said. “And we got that ride, that bike where you get to sit in a little carriage (a bike-propelled rickshaw). … It was a good time.”