Last season, Michigan finished up Big Ten play in style by traveling down to Ohio State, and knocking off the 14th-ranked Buckeyes 1-0. Although the game marked just the second time the two teams had played since Michigan turned varsity, Michigan coach Steve Burns believes that that game began a traditional competition that has come to define all Michigan sports.
“Last year, we went down to Columbus, and we stole a game which we had no business winning,” Burns said. “We stole that game, and I think the rivalry was born.”
Since Indiana has already finished up its Big Ten season 6-0, the Buckeyes (2-2 Big Ten, 10-5-1 overall) arestriving to finish second in the conference.
In the event of an Ohio State victory this weekend, all the Buckeyes have to do is beat conference celler dweller Northwestern (0-4 in the Big Ten) to hold sole possession of the No. 2 spot. But, in the case of a Michigan win, there is a very good chance that Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State, Penn State and Wisconsin would finish up the year in a five-way tie for second place.
“Both programs know the importance of this game,” Burns said.
Boasting the Big Ten Freshman of the Year three out of the last four years, Ohio State is loaded with talent. The Buckeyes run a defensive 4-4-2 shape, but possess plenty of firepower on the offensive side of the ball. But the team’s X-factor could be sophomore goaltender Chad Brown, who has posted an astounding 0.82 goals-against average in 15 games started.
Michigan looks to counter Ohio State with its usual game plan of aggressive offense and consistent defense. The Wolverines’ success will depend on the two legs of “super sophs” Mychal Turpin and Knox Cameron, who have combined for 20 scores this season (10 each).
Freshman Adam Burns is confident entering the game, and feels that his team is peaking at just the right time of the season.
“We are at the point of the season where we are starting to get our form,” Burns said. “It takes a while for that to happen in a sport like soccer, and I believe that we are there now.”
In a game with major NCAA Tournament implications, Burns expects a barnburner.
“It is going to be a great game,” Burns said. “It is going to be a game where both teams fight hard for 90 minutes to get every ball.”