Ohio State football: Herbstreit happy for high stakes in The Game

COLUMBUS -- Coaches implore players to stay focused on the task at hand. Take one game at a time. Only worry about what’s next on the schedule.

Fan don’t have to do that, though, and at heart, that is still what Kirk Herbstreit is — especially when the topic is Ohio State-Michigan.

“Can’t wait man. Just cannot wait,” the 52-year-old ESPN college football analyst acknowledged last week during a video press conference to preview Ohio State’s home finale against Michigan State. “I’m from that generation where I don’t care what the records are every year. I just love to see the uniforms on the field together. That makes my year, so when you throw in the potential if they both win this weekend, you throw in all of what will be at stake. Holy cow. I mean, it’s like hitting the jackpot.”

The Buckeyes did win last weekend, and so did the Wolverines.

Ohio State shellacked the Spartans 56-7 early in the afternoon while Michigan easily dispatched Maryland 59-18 a little bit later to set up the 117th meeting between the schools as the second consecutive with both teams ranked in the top 10 of the national polls.

Ohio State has already clinched at least a share of the Big Ten East division, but Michigan can forge a tie with a win Saturday. That would also send the Wolverines to the Big Ten Championship Game for the first time and vault them into position to make their first College Football Playoff appearance with a win over the Big Ten West champion.

While the Buckeyes have won a conference-record four consecutive outright Big Ten titles, the Wolverines are looking to end a 15-year conference championship drought.

Plenty of Ohio State fans have reveled in Michigan’s stumbles over the past decade-plus, but Herbstreit is not one of them.

“I always get a lot of grief from people because I cheer for Michigan as a fan — forget about being a broadcaster, just as a fan,” he said. “I’ve always been taught by my dad to cheer for Michigan in nonconference games and bowl games.”

His father was Jim Herbstreit, an Ohio State captain in 1960 and later and assistant coach for the Buckeyes.

The younger Herbstreit, who became a star quarterback at Centerville then wore the Scarlet and Gray from 1988-92, has been a national college football analyst for more than two decades, but he still takes to heart the teachings of his late father, who became friends with Bo Schembechler while they were both members of Woody Hayes’ Ohio State coaching staff.

Schembechler later spent 21 seasons as the head coach of the Wolverines, and his battles with Hayes in the 1970s helped elevate the rivalry to new heights.

“He was big on they’re representing the Big Ten, and he was friends with Bo,” Herbstreit said of Jim. “He just brainwashed me to be that way, and so the main reason is he wanted everything on the line when Ohio State and Michigan played each other. Like, ‘Let’s all beat everybody, and then let’s go at it for 60 minutes and see who the better team is.’ That’s the way I was trained. That’s the way I still look at that game, and that’s what I hope for every single year, the fan in me. That’s what I want every year.”

Herbstreit and the ESPN GameDay pregame show crew were in Columbus last weekend, and they will broadcast from Ann Arbor this weekend prior to the game, which will kick off at noon on Fox.

Stroud honored again

Ohio State’s current quarterback will go into his first start against Michigan as the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week.

C.J. Stroud was so honored after he completed 32 of 35 passes for 432 yards and tied the school single-game record with six touchdown passes against Michigan State.

Stroud was also named Big Ten Freshman of the Week for the seventh time.


Ohio State at Michigan, Noon, Fox, 1410

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