Michigan aware, eager for a “hostile” environment that awaits Wolverines on the trip to Ohio state


ANN ARBOR, Michigan – Saturday will undoubtedly be the Michigan Football Team’s toughest challenge of the season. The third-seeded Wolverines are also probably Ohio State’s toughest challenge of the season, but the Buckeyes’ electric passing offense, talented and experienced offensive line, and vastly improved defensive line will propel Michigan more than it has all season.

And on top of that, more than 105,000 rabid fans will be there, passionately cheering for the Wolverines’ downfall.

In addition to the challenges the Buckeyes pose as a talented, productive football team, they will also give the Wolverines what is by far their toughest road test of the season. Iowa made Michigan uneasy with an impassioned crowd of 69,250 while the Wolverines passed less “hostile” road tests in Indiana and Rutgers.

But Ohio Stadium seats 104,944, holds back noise with a steep second deck, and Buckeyes fans cheer as passionately as anyone else in the country. When the “Horseshoe” rocks, there is a comfortable Top 10 atmosphere in university sports, maybe even higher.

And rest assured, Saturday will be rocking.

“We’re expecting the most hostile environment we’ve been in,” said defensive tackle Kris Jenkins. “We preach the same culture – just to be successful in that environment. We are very much looking forward to that.”

Adding fellow defensive tackle Mazi Smith: “We know they’re getting pretty loud over there. I’ve been there before during recruitment and I see how they turn out. I’m just happy to be in a different hostile environment.”

Michigan has to give it credit for becoming a team that thrives on the road over the past two seasons. The Wolverines won their first game in Wisconsin since 2001 last fall, and their 27-14 win in Iowa was their first in Iowa City since 2005. Last season, Michigan had more wins in impressive settings, including a sell-out night game in Nebraska Crowd and a Penn State vibe that was 108,000+ and as loud as it gets.

“I’m expecting a loud, crazy environment,” said offensive tackle Ryan Hayes. “We’ve played these games here before so I think we’ll be prepared.”

There are really two main components to overcome a difficult road environment. One is the intimidation factor and not feeling worse when the crowd really wants it. Any Michigan player who played on last season’s team should be well-prepared.

The other side, however, is the strategic side of things. It’s well documented that offensive lines and offenses commit more false start penalties and miss more pre-snap calls when playing on the street. Michigan will practice with loud music and noise during practice before street games, but it’s hard to simulate what the Wolverines will face in Columbus.

“They practice all week for a noisy environment, for a hostile environment,” said center Olu Oluwatimi, who said the noisiest environment he’s played in his career was BYU when he was in Virginia. “You just have to tune in. Make calls, communicate, trust the brothers around you. We’ve done a lot of snaps together this season and we just go out and do them. That’s all that matters.”

Add to that the fact that Ohio State plays its best football at home. Even against top teams in Columbus, the Buckeyes have won 37 of their last 38 home games and are 138-11 at Ohio Stadium for the past 20 years. Michigan played tough against the Buckeyes a couple of times in Columbus but haven’t won there since 2000 — before most Michigan players were even born.

Now, the Wolverines will travel to Columbus with just two players (Ronnie Bell and Jake Moody), who even played the last time Michigan played Ohio State in 2018.

“We are aware of that. We talk about it. The kids are embracing it,” offensive line coach and co-coordinator Sherrone Moore said this week. “That’s what they want. You want that atmosphere. I think it drives them on a bit.”

According to Moore, Michigan has successfully met every challenge it has faced this season and most it has faced this past season. If there’s one Michigan team that can survive a decade-long stadium drought, it’s probably the one that has won 23 of their last 25 games and is raking in “first since…” wins at every turn.

“At the end of the day, it’s all noise and it’s all just a bunch of fans who like to boo you and don’t like you very much,” said quarterback JJ McCarthy. “Just do what you can to convert that and use it against them.

“I feel like a lot of the situations that we’ve been through this year, facing adversity on the road and being in Iowa, it’s just going to help us tremendously.”

(Patrick Barron, MGoBlog.com)

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