Ohio State and Michigan meet again in a game with Big Ten title importance

Matt Perkins

With the parity engulfing most of the Big Ten this season, it is no surprise that the championship will be on the line in the final weekend of play.

It’s also no surprise that for the sixth straight season, Michigan and Ohio State will meet in the season finale with one of the two teams having a shot at the conference title.

And when the teams meet for the 102nd time Saturday, they both have a chance.

The Wolverines have revenge on their minds this time around, as last year the Buckeyes toppled Michigan in the last game of the year to force the Wolverines to share their Big Ten title with Iowa.

In that game, Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith had 241 yards passing and two touchdown passes to go along with 145 rushing yards and a score on the ground in a 37-21 Buckeyes’ victory. After trailing 14-7 at the end of the first quarter, Ohio State scored 27 unanswered points in the second and third quarters.

The 2004 game was Ohio State coach Jim Tressel’s third win in four tries against Michigan. The lone defeat to Michigan in Tressel’s four years in Columbus came two years ago at Michigan Stadium when Wolverines running back Chris Perry racked up 212 total yards and two touchdowns to lead Michigan to a 35-21 win.

Players and coaches involved know every year how important the last game of the season will be ” especially when these two teams match up.

“Obviously, how you play in the Ohio State-Michigan game is crucial to you,” Tressel said. “It’s even more crucial how you play in the last game of the year.”

Michigan coach Lloyd Carr went as far as saying the game defines his team’s season every year.

“In terms of tradition of this program, it’s the biggest game we play,” Carr said. “It’s a game if you win it, it’s an excellent season; if you lose it, it’s a disappointing season.”

Michigan not only can avoid a disappointing season by beating Ohio State, but if the Wolverines get a little help from Michigan State, they also could end their season on top of the Big Ten.

A Michigan win coupled with a Michigan State win against Penn State would create a three-way tie for first at 6-2 among Michigan, Penn State and Ohio State.

In that case, Michigan would receive the Big Ten’s automatic Bowl Championship Series berth by virtue of its head-to-head wins over the Nittany Lions and the Buckeyes.

Spartans hope to bust Penn State

One of the winningest coaches in college football history, Penn State’s Joe Paterno, may know better than anyone the importance of being able to control your own destiny

This year, Paterno doesn’t just know about its importance ” his team has it.

With a win Saturday at Michigan State, Penn State can clinch its second outright Big Ten title since joining the conference in 1993.

But a win for the Spartans ” currently 5-5 ” would mean a season-saving bowl berth.

“It doesn’t get any bigger than this,” Michigan State coach John L. Smith said. “For us, it’s huge.”

Just short of 10,000

Northwestern senior quarterback Brett Basanez needs just 76 yards passing Saturday at Illinois to become the third quarterback in Big Ten history with 10,000 career passing yards.

Sitting at 9,924 yards, Basanez looks to pass Purdue’s Mark Herrmann (9,946) for third place on the all-time passing list. Purdue’s Drew Brees (11,792) holds the conference’s all-time record, and Iowa’s Chuck Long (10,461) is second.

Attendance records

Barring any unforeseen plummet in attendance this weekend, the Big Ten will set a new high for average attendance.

In 2002, the Big Ten saw a record average of 70,505 fans show up to each contest. This season that number has grown to 72,944.

Five Big Ten teams ranked in BCS poll

The Big Ten boasts five teams in the top 25 of the Bowl Champion Series rankings this week.

Penn State heads the list of Big Ten teams at fourth. Ohio State is close behind at seven, Michigan sits at 15 and Wisconsin and Minnesota round out the list at 20 and 21, respectively.

With a win against Michigan this weekend, the Buckeyes could put themselves in position for a BCS spot. An Ohio State win and a Penn State loss would give the Buckeyes the conference’s automatic BCS bid.

Even with a Penn State win, Ohio State will be in position for an at-large BCS selection if the Buckeyes beat Michigan. The two BCS at-large teams likely will be chosen from a field of Notre Dame, Ohio State, Virginia Tech and Oregon.

Only the Southeastern Conference, with six, has more teams in the BCS top 25 than the Big Ten.