Fans prep for OSU-Michigan matchup

As the Ohio State Buckeyes prepare to take the field against the arch-rival Michigan Wolverines Saturday, Fort Frye High School football coach Eric Huck is doing something he never wants his players to do – thinking about next week’s opponent.

“I guess that’s one of the benefits of being a fan, where I can look ahead,” Huck said.

But even though he’s already considering next week’s Big 10 championship matchup with Michigan State, Huck knows Ohio State’s victory at the Big House in Ann Arbor isn’t a sure thing. After all, it’s a rivalry game and, cliche though it may be, the records and the point spread can often be thrown out the window in those situations.

“They’ll both be playing extremely hard football,” Huck said.

The Buckeyes, who haven’t lost a game since Jan. 2, 2012, are two-touchdown favorites over the Wolverines, who come in with a 7-4 record. Fleming resident David Kesterson, 39, predicts a 30-14 Ohio State victory, but wouldn’t be surprised if the margin of victory was less.

“It’s very possible it could be a close game,” he said.

Except for two years ago, the Buckeyes have had the Wolverines’ number of late, winning eight of the last nine contests. Still, the rivalry is considered one of the best in all of sports, and it generates a great deal of excitement among fans.

Alan Waters, owner of Prime Steak and Seafood in the Comfort Inn in Marietta, said the crowd for Ohio State games this season has tended to fluctuate based on the competitiveness of the matchup. That trend probably won’t be followed on Saturday though.

“It’ll draw a good crowd, just because Buckeye fans love to see them beat Michigan,” Waters said.

“We’re expecting to at least try to fill our restaurant down on the floor, which would be 75 to 100 people,” he said.

A similar crowd is anticipated at the Marietta Shrine Club, where the game will be shown on a 15-foot projection screen as part of the annual Buckeye Bash. Doors open at 11 a.m., an hour before kickoff, for the event which is open to the public for a price of $5 for two meal tickets for adults.

Chad Blair, a bartender at the Town House on Second Street in Marietta, expects that location to be “packed” during the game.

“We got a big Buckeye following here,” he said.

But the game that’s come to be known as “The Game” won’t be the only one on Ohio State fans’ radar. After all, it’s widely believed that even if the Buckeyes beat the Wolverines this week and the Spartans in the conference championship, they could still be on the outside looking in when it comes to the BCS national championship game. That means the scarlet-and-gray faithful would be happy to see No. 4 Auburn knock off No. 1 Alabama or Florida shock No. 2 Florida State on Saturday.

“I will be an Auburn fan (Saturday),” said Garry Bonnette, an OSU fan and head cook for the Buckeye Bash.

Kesterson said the Buckeyes could wind up completing their second consecutive perfect season “a year too early” since the NCAA is shifting to a four-team playoff next year. But if Ohio State doesn’t get a shot at the title and still runs the table, he’d be hard-pressed to consider the season a disappointment.

“You couldn’t ask for anything better,” Kesterson said.