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Michigan preparing for ‘loud, hostile’ environment at Ohio State

MLive Ann Arbor 11/23/2022 Aaron McMann,

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan will board a bus on Friday and make the three-hour trip down to central Ohio for a high-stakes game many in the college football world are looking forward to.

And while the atmosphere last year in Ann Arbor could only be described as extraordinary, players and coaches are in for a different scene Saturday when they play Ohio State in Columbus (Noon, FOX) — a loud, raucous, hateful crowd of fans. Those who have experienced before know.

“We’re aware of it. We talk about it. The kids embrace it,” offensive line coach and co-coordinator Sherrone Moore, who was on staff for the last trip to Columbus, said this week. “They want that. They want that atmosphere. I think it drives them a little bit.”

Only two members of Michigan’s current roster, receiver Ronnie Bell and kicker Jake Moody, played in that 2018 game at Ohio Stadium. The Wolverines were scheduled to make a return trip in 2020, but canceled the game amid a spat of injuries and virus breakout on the team. The four-year gap between trips is the largest since the two rivals began playing every year, alternating trips, in 1918.

“We’re expecting the most hostile environment we’ve been in yet,” defensive tackle Kris Jenkins said. “We’re preaching the same culture — just to thrive in that type of environment. We’re really excited for it.”

To date, Michigan has gotten a taste of big, loud stadiums. Penn State’s Beaver Stadium holds more than 100,000 fans and was filled to the brim last year. As was Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium, which played host to the Wolverines for a night game that players still cite as one of the loudest environments they have played in.

More: What pressure? Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy eager for first start vs. Ohio State

But the 104,944-seat Ohio Stadium is a different beast. Built to look like a horseshoe from above, hence the nickname, it was designed to keep crowd noise inside the stadium. It can be loud and, at times, overwhelming for teams. In 2018, Michigan was penalized seven times for 72 yards and committed a pair of turnovers en route to a 62-39 loss to the Buckeyes.

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

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

Head coach Jim Harbaugh has talked at length this week about being “grateful for the experience” of getting Michigan into this situation. Just like Ohio State, the Wolverines are 11-0 and in need of a victory to reach the Big Ten championship game, and likely the College Football Playoff.

He expects the atmosphere in Columbus to “be great” on Saturday, and has instructed his players to “go have at it.”

“They’ve been on some very big stages,” Harbaugh said. “This is not a team where the mission is grim; it isn’t one of anxiety and fear. They just want to get prepared.”

While Michigan will bring with it a bunch of a first-timers to Ohio Stadium, they have a few players on the roster who know what to expect. Defensive tackle Mazi Smith, a former four-star high school prospect, once attended a football game during a recruiting visit. And safety Rod Moore grew up in Clayton, Ohio, a town about an hour west of Columbus, and has been to the stadium.

“We know they get pretty loud over there,” Smith said. “I had been there before during recruiting and I see how they get. I’m just excited to be in another hostile environment.”

Said offensive tackle Ryan Hayes: “I mean, I’ve heard stories. I’m expecting a loud, crazy environment. We’ve played in those games before here, so I think we’ll be prepared.”

Read more on Michigan football:

Look back at the best Michigan-Ohio State games

After a devastating week, Michigan lineman ready for ‘game of the year’

Michigan players talk Ohio State rivalry: ‘It means everything’

U-M can still reach CFP with loss, but it would need help

Jim Harbaugh: ‘Third base’ comment was a counterpunch to Ryan Day

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