CINCINNATI -- The Game may see a record crowd at Ohio Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
No. 2 Ohio State (10-1, 7-1 Big Ten East division) plays No. 3 Michigan (10-1, 7-1) for the 113th time overall, including the 11th occasion with both teams having a top five ranking in the Associated Press poll.
There will be plenty of Cincinnati-area representation when the Buckeyes and Wolverines tangle starting at noon. It is the 99th consecutive year the teams have played.
As Ohio Stadium prepares to surpass a record attendance of 108,975 set in the 2015 game against Michigan State, here are nine Cincinnati-area aspects to this year’s edition of the rivalry:
Ohio State has seven area players on the roster, including senior linebacker and captain Joe Burger (La Salle) and senior wide receiver Joe Ramstetter (Elder), who is a member of the scout team. The Buckeyes also have red shirt sophomore and starting defensive end Sam Hubbard (Moeller) and freshman tight end Jake Hausmann (Moeller). Freshman Drue Chrisman (La Salle) is the backup punter. Red shirt freshman linebacker Justin Hilliard (St. Xavier) is out for the season with an injury. Junior defensive back Logan Kelleher (Moeller) is a member of the scout team. Ohio State cornerback coach/special teams coordinator Kerry Coombs is a former University of Cincinnati assistant and Colerain High School head coach.
Michigan sophomore offensive tackle Nolan Ulizio (Lakota West) is a backup offensive lineman for the Wolverines.
Some of the state’s top recruits are expected to be in attendance Saturday at Ohio Stadium.
“It definitely impacts the landscape of recruiting,” Lakota West coach Larry Cox said. “The game is significant again.”
Ohio State has won four consecutive games against Michigan, so there will be plenty of bragging rights when coaches visit area high schools in December into next spring.
There are three area players who’ve committed to Ohio State in the 2017 class including Colerain cornerback Amir Riep, Winton Woods defensive tackle Jerron Cage and Miamisburg offensive lineman Josh Myers. Riep and Cage will be at the game, their high school coaches confirmed.
Fairfield 2018 offensive lineman Jack Carman and Fairfield 2018 defensive end Malik Vann are expected to attend, according to Fairfield coach Jason Krause. Carman, a 2018 U.S. Army All-American, has more than 30 scholarship offers and is seriously considering the Buckeyes. He also has an offer from Michigan and several other big-time programs. Vann has close to 30 offers and Ohio State has shown interest. Moeller 2018 defensive tackle Aeneas Hawkins will also be at the game. He has an offer from Ohio State among several others.
Lakota West 2019 defensive end Steven Faucheux visited Ann Arbor last week for Michigan’s game against Indiana.
Former Michigan standout linebacker Joe Bolden, a 2011 Colerain graduate, is a graduate assistant coaching the linebackers and special teams for the Wolverines this season.
Bolden, a four-year letterman, appeared in 51 games for the Wolverines during his Michigan career. He’s one of the rare players to coach in the game after a playing career with one of the two schools.
“To see that rivalry as kid growing up watching it on TV, then as a player in both stadiums and participate in it as a coach -- you get to see it from every different angle,” said Joe’s father, Colerain assistant coach Dan Bolden. “It’s hard to name the number of guys who’ve done that.”
Dan Bolden said his son enjoys the long hours and is responsible for much of the scout team. Joe often goes home around 8:30 or 9 p.m. after being at the office since 7 a.m. Michigan defensive line coach Greg Mattison, who has won national championships as a college coach and a Super Bowl ring with the Ravens, recently told Dan Bolden that he’s never seen a young assistant coach responsible for so much like Joe Bolden.
“I was very proud to hear that,” Dan said.
Fifth opportunity for Kerry Coombs
Ohio State cornerbacks coach/special teams coordinator Kerry Coombs is the most well known name in this area when it Ohio State is mentioned.
Coombs is the lead recruiter in Cincinnati and is concluding his fifth season with the Buckeyes after he spent five seasons as an assistant at the University of Cincinnati. He led Colerain to a 2004 state title as the Cardinals’ head coach.
Senior standout running back Mister Simpson rushed for 105 yards in the state final and later signed with Michigan.
Many local observers have argued that ’04 Colerain squad as possibly the greatest of all area high school football teams. What you may know not is that Coombs used to take his Colerain teams to team camps at Michigan in the 1990s and early 2000s. He’s in charge of recruiting Michigan for the Buckeyes.
Senior linebacker Joe Burger has earned plenty of recognition from Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer this week. Burger, a 2012 La Salle graduate, originally committed to Ohio State as a preferred walk-on in April of his senior at La Salle.
Burger, the son of La Salle team physician Dr. Bob Burger, has emerged as a captain and respected member of the Ohio State program on and off the field.
Joe Burger and his friend, senior linebacker Craig Fada, continue to receive accolades for their improbable journey.
“People joke around, or I joke around, if I have any more children, I’m going to name him Burger Fada,” Meyer said. “That’s how much I love those guys. Two of the most selfless guys I’ve ever been around, and I’m so proud to be able to put them on scholarship. They’ll be Buckeyes the rest of their life.”
Burger said earlier this week he’s trying not to dwell on the fact that it’s his final home game.
“We’re fortunate that this game has a lot of implications,” Burger said. “This game is always the biggest of our year.”
Urban's Queen City roots
Long before he was winning national championships at Florida and then Ohio State, Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer was a student at the University of Cincinnati, playing football as a walk-on defensive back for the Bearcats in the mid-'80s. He graduated from UC in 1986 with an Arts and Sciences degree.
According to an article published in UC Magazine, Meyer met his future wife, Shelley Mather Meyer, at UC while she was a nursing student. He started his coaching career with an internship as an assistant at St. Xavier High School before moving on to a graduate assistant position at Ohio State, according to the article. His grandfather taught law at UC and his father and two sisters are also UC graduates.
Welcome to the Big House
Sophomore offensive tackle Nolan Ulizio, a 2015 Lakota West graduate, is a backup on the offensive line, but he’s grown a beard and has really embraced the Wolverines’ culture, according to Lakota West coach Larry Cox.
“He loves it up there,” Cox said. “He stays in contact with me and I’ve heard he’s all in on the Michigan lifestyle.”
Ulizio had a unique recruiting journey having verbally committed to UConn in mid-December of his senior year. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh evaluated his film and offered him on Jan. 18. Ulizio drove to Ann Arbor a few days later for an official visit and actually went bowling with Harbaugh one lane over from him on the visit. Ulizio committed that weekend becoming the third overall commit of the Harbaugh era at Michigan.
Week of preparation
Ohio State redshirt sophomore defensive end Sam Hubbard, a Moeller graduate, tweeted and posted a photo of him in the weight rom this weekend on Instagram with a banner that read “Beat That Team Up North.”
He’s also been active on Snapchat with his preparations for the game.
“You get a feel for the intensity of the game,” said Moeller coach John Rodenberg, who keeps in touch with Hubbard via text message. “You know it definitely means a lot more.”
Former Moeller linebacker Jimmy Rodenberg, who is John’s son, is a strength and conditioning intern for Ohio State. He’s put in long hours in the office this week. He was working from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday and will likely start at 3:30 or 4 a.m. this Saturday.
“They exhaust themselves for this week,” John Rodenberg said. “I think that’s makes this week special.”
Did you know?
Colerain had winged helmets in the mid-1980s that were reminiscent of Michigan’s helmet due to a coaching connection with Ann Arbor, according to Dan Bolden.
Current Colerain coach Tom Bolden was a quarterback for the Cardinals in those days.
Former Bengals tight end Eric Kattus, a Colerain graduate, was a member of the 1982 Big Ten champions despite the Wolverines’ loss in Columbus that season.