The Michigan-Ohio State rivalry is one that in recent years has been defined by players from the state of Ohio – both for the Wolverines and the Buckeyes.

In 1991, Desmond Howard helped lead Michigan to a dominating 31-3 victory of Ohio State en route to a Heisman trophy and a Rose Bowl berth.

In 1996 and 1997, cornerback Charles Woodson was the player of the game. In 1996, he shut down the Buckeyes’ star wideout Terry Glenn and nabbed two interceptions. In 1997 he defined his Heisman season with an interception in the endzone and a punt return for a touchdown.

It was the play of these two players that are prominent in bringing non-Michigan recruits to Ann Arbor.

California native Charles Drake’s reason for coming to Michigan is simple.

“Charles Woodson, 1997,” Drake said. “That was a big thing and I just liked Michigan when I was little, especially those helmets. A lot of people joke about the helmets and uniforms, but even in California a lot of kids love those helmets and uniforms.”

But in a bit role reversal last year, it was a Michigan native that was the story of the game. Then-freshman Craig Krenzel, led the Buckeyes to a 26-20 upset of the Wolverines. The Utica-native, playing in place of Steve Bellasari, was unspectacular but consistent in his play as most of the load was carried by senior running back Jonathan Wells.

Krenzel has parlayed that performance to the starting position this season, and has continued his understated, but clutch play.

Though the Buckeyes are predominantly a running team – as exemplified by its 200 yards per game on the ground – Krenzel’s play has been outstanding in keeping Ohio State unbeaten without running back Maurice Clarett. In escaping upsets against Purdue and Illinois, Krenzel connected with wide receiver Michael Jenkins on a long pass play in each game.

Against the Boilermakers, in the fourth quarter on 4th-and-1 and with the game on the line down 6-3, Krenzel stepped back and hit Jenkins on a 37-yard touchdown pass to go ahead for good.

Versus the Illini,when it appeared the game was slipping away from the Buckeyes in the third quarter, as they were down 10-6, Krenzel took the momentum right back from Illinois with a 50-yard bomb to Jenkins for the score.

“I think Krenzel has done a great job of creating plays,” Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. “He has improved a great deal and is smart and competitive, which is shown by him making a lot of plays when things broke down. He has hit some big passes, especially in the last two games.”

Now, just like Krenzel hopes to do again and as Woodson did before him, several Wolverines would like the chance to defeat the most prominent school from their home state.

On Michigan’s roster, 15 players hail from the state of Ohio, including defensive linemen Grant Bowman, Shawn Lazarus and Pierre Woods, fullback B.J. Askew and linebacker Carl Diggs. Each will have a chance to make an impact in the game tomorrow.

“I always wanted to come to Michigan ever since I was little,” Diggs said. “When I found out about the tradition that comes along with being a Wolverine, that was enough for me.”

Though the players were mum about their opinions on avenging last season’s loss, the tradition of the game itself is enough to the Wolverines motivated.

“I’m from Ohio and I play for the archrival,” Lazarus said. “It’s a great tradition and it’s always a great football game and you love to play in great football games.”

When both teams take the field tomorrow, every player will be looking to make their mark on the storied rivalry – and they just might turn the heads of future Buckeyes and Wolverines.

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