Any true fan of the Ohio State-Michigan game can tell you about a storied tradition. This is The Game for a reason. Your team can go 1-11, and if that one win is against Michigan/Ohio State, it's a success.
But what gets overlooked in the history is the dangerous ground of the week prior to The Game. Often times, the penultimate game of the season becomes the Trap Game, as it is VERY easy to look past their opponent and start getting prepared for Michigan.
Even a superior coach like Jim Tressel has had difficulty with the Trap Game.
In 2001, the Buckeyes got caught looking ahead to Michigan. We lost to Illinois, but the Illini did go on to win the Big Ten, and we had a little problem with a DUI from QB Steve Bellisari 36 hours before kickoff. The DUI ended being a blessing, though. Craig Krenzel went on to beat Michigan, and he got the necessary experience to help him get through big games in the 2002 season.
In 2002, Illinois again gave us trouble. We should have dominated the orange and blue, but we couldn't put them away. Overtime was forced, and the defense was the difference in a 23-16 win. We went on to beat Michigan the following week, 14-9.
In 2003, it was Purdue's turn to put the pressure on us. In one of the most intense games you'll never remember, the Boilermakers forced us into OT. One missed FG by each team (Nugent? What the hell?) just added to the fever pitch. Buckeyes still clawed out a 16-13 win. Michigan dominated us one week later, 35-21.
In 2004, Purdue broke through on our rebuilding year. A frantic comeback from 14 points down was successful, but the Bucks left too much time on the clock for Kyle Orton, and a late TD ended Ohio State's amazing turnaround season. It was Troy Smith's first loss as a starter (he only had three total), and the next week he began his career as the Wolverine Killer, behind a 37-21 victory.
We've been spared the potential loss in the Trap Game in 2005 and 2006, thanks to a lower-echelon opponent. We buried Northwestern 48-7 in '05, and 54-10 in '06. Both years, the Buckeyes went on to beat Michigan (25-21 and 42-39).
This year, Illinois appears to be in the top third of Big Ten opposition. They're hunting down the Capital One Bowl in January, and can get there with a win against us on Saturday.
I'm happy that Jim Tressel is our coach. He understands the Trap Game and will bury it into our guys heads that Michigan Week doesn't start until the clock reads 0:00 on Saturday evening.
Our fans can begin the Michigan countdown all we want...as long as the guys who wear the uniform don't.