For MSU players with Ohio ties, Saturday's Ohio State game is personal
When No. 7 MSU (7-1 overall , 4-0 Big Ten ) takes on No. 13 Ohio State (7-1 overall , 4-0 Big Ten ) Saturday night in East Lansing, it will not only be for a commanding lead in the east division, but to stay alive for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
For many of the MSU players, it will be personal because they grew up in, and eventually left, the Buckeye state.
Head coach Mark Dantonio has had a pipeline going through Ohio ever since he got to MSU. Connor Cook , Marcus Rush , Kurtis Drummond and Travis Jackson are all from Ohio. Before the Michigan game, Cook said last season’s Big Ten championship game against OSU was the biggest game for him.
Cook said this week’s game feels more personal than others have.
“It’s different because there isn’t really a divide in Ohio,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where you are in the state, everyone is an Ohio State fan.”
Cook grew up in Hinckley Township , between Cleveland and Akron. He said this week comes with added intensity for a lot of guys — intensity that is fueled by the OSU face base, a fan base the rivals any in the country on passion, according to Cook.
“Those guys are crazy,” he said. “I know I had someone say something to me that I probably shouldn’t repeat. I know they’re not arrogant or anything, just crazy.”
Cook said last season’s Big Ten championship game was more important for the program, in his opinion, than the Rose Bowl game.
“We always talked about making it to the Rose Bowl,” he said. “We never talked about actually winning the game, so for us to accomplish that goal was huge.”
Even if players aren’t from Ohio they can still tell that this week is different than other weeks for the players from Ohio or Michigan.
Junior linebacker Darien Harris is from Maryland and said it is players like him who want to play well for the players from Ohio.
“I think it’s the guys like me that aren’t from Michigan or Ohio that want to come out and make a statement for those guys,” he said. “We take it upon ourselves to get this one for the guy next to me who might be from Ohio.”
Cook said players from Ohio tend to make this game more personal than others.
“Anytime you play them (it’s more intense),” he said. “Just because Ohio State is so big and everyone loves them. It definitely makes it more personal.”