FOX Sports College Football Analyst
Former Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith knows what’s at stake for his Buckeyes in the latest edition of college football’s most storied rivalry.
“I mean, it’s everything,” Smith said of “The Game” between Ohio State and Michigan. “The excitement is deep. The tensions are high. Special players come out in special games, and that will set you up for the rest of your life.”
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And while Smith hasn’t donned a Buckeyes helmet since the 2006 season, before the College Football Playoff era, he understands the pressures of 2022 better than most. After all, he played in “The Game” the last time both teams entered undefeated, and he did so while feeling the heat of the Heisman Trophy race.
Current Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud faces that kind of pressure, and Smith is rooting for him to win every individual and team honor he can.
“I want it to be the eighth,” Smith told me, referring to the previous seven Heisman trophies on display at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. “I want him to go on and bring home another Heisman Trophy. Hopefully, we’ll be high-fiving him on stage. You know what I mean, in New York.”
As for the CFP, the latest rankings released Tuesday had the Buckeyes holding on at No. 2 and the Wolverines entrenched at No. 3. This is the first time in the CFP that these teams have been ranked that high, and the first time. since Smith’s appearance in 2006.
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What is at stake? Not only are the Buckeyes playing for the Big Ten East division title and a spot in the Big Ten Championship, but for CFP purposes, they’re playing for one of the best wins of the season.
Currently, No. 1 Georgia has its best win of the campaign, a 27-13 victory over former Tennessee, which was the Volunteers’ first loss of the season.
While the Michigan-Ohio State winner would be a shoot-in for a CFP invite, a close game does not disqualify the loser. With big games throughout the final weekend of the season and conference championships to be played the next, there’s a chance for the top two teams in the Big Ten to make the CFP.
If No. 5 LSU gets buried by Georgia, that could help the Buckeyes even if they lose to the Wolverines for the second straight season. It would also help if No. 6 USC loses to No. 15 Notre Dame. At the end of the day, the Irish would have wins over USC and the ACC champion, whether that turns out to be No. 8 Clemson or No. 17 North Carolina, and don’t forget that Ohio State is beat ND this season.
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However, neither the Buckeyes nor the Wolverines will want to entertain that. Even now they are taking every possible moment to prepare to win this weekend.
The Wolverines want to prove that last year’s dominating win was no fluke and that their days of being brutalized by the Buckeyes are over. And let’s not forget that former Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis called OSU “an exquisite team; not a tough team.”
“To be honest,” OSU tight end Cade Stover said Tuesday. “I really don’t give a s— what anybody says about our toughness. We know what we’ve got.”
So here’s what’s at stake when Ohio State and Michigan meet Saturday (noon ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app): bragging rights, an undefeated season, a guaranteed CFP berth and for Stroud, a potential Heisman Trophy.
It all goes back to 2006, the last time “The Game” carried this much weight, a weight Smith knows all too well.
“I remember that day very well,” Smith said. “It’s a part of OSU history and I’m incredibly grateful to be there.”
Here are last week’s College Football Playoff standings, with updated records and whether each team won or lost last week:
1. Georgia (11-0)
2. Ohio State (11-0)
3. Michigan (11-0)
4. TCU (11-0)
5. LSU (9-2)
6. USC (10-1)
7. Alabama (9-2)
8. Clemson (10-1)
9. Oregon (9-2)
10. Tennessee (9-2)
11. Penn State (9-2)
12. Kansas State (8-3)
13. Washington (9-2)
14. Utah (8-3)
15. Our Lady (8-3)
16. Florida State (8-3)
17. North Carolina (9-2)
18. UCLA (8-3)
19. Tulane (9-2)
20. Ole Miss (8-3)
21. Oregon State (8-3)
22. UCF (8-3)
23. Texas (7-4)
24. Cincinnati (9-2)
25. Louisville (7-4)
RJ Young is a national college football writer and analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the podcast “The number one college football show.“Follow him on Twitter at @RJ_Young i subscribe to “The RJ Young Show” on YouTube.
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