After thinking back to the Wolverines last trip to Ohio Stadium in 2004, LaMarr Woodley knows the No. 2-ranked Michigan football team won’t have a lot of friends on Saturday. Traveling to Columbus, Ohio, for a battle with the No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes is never an easy task.
“We’re not going to have many fans there,” LaMarr Woodley said when addressing the media on Monday morning. “We’re going to have a very small section. It’s just us against the whole stadium pretty much. It’s always loud. You’ve got people yelling. You’re getting on the bus, they are yelling, when you’re getting off the bus, they’re yelling, when you’re on the field they’re yelling and when you leave the stadium they’re yelling.”
That said, LaMarr Woodley wouldn’t have it any other way.
Now in his senior year, it was the allure of such a game that drew the Wolverines talented pass rusher to Ann Arbor in the first place. A top recruit from Saginaw, Mich., Woodley could have suited up for any college in the nation. In the end, however, being part of the most storied rivalry in college football is part of what drew Woodley to Michigan.
“It’s definitely a big rivalry. Coach Jackson and Coach Carr told me one day Michigan and Ohio State will be No. 1 and No. 2 and will be going against each other. It’s just an honor to be in it. That was when I was a senior in high school become I came (to Michigan). They said it one happen someday and it happened in my last year here.”
Along with the nations’ No. 1 ranking, the Ohio State Buckeyes feature one of the most dynamic players in college football with Quarterback Troy Smith. Smith has terrorized the Maize and Blue over the past two years, including conducting two fourth quarter touchdown drives to shock the Michigan crowd in Ann Arbor last year. In his last battle against Michigan, just how well the new and improved Michigan defense can contain Smith could be the key to victory.
“We need to try to make a tackle,” LaMarr said. “Sometimes you don’t want a quarterback to get outside, you want to draw him closer in to your defense so everybody can get a game tackle. You take a wrong angle at a guy like that, he’s bound to break for yards.”
Woodley won’t have to try and stop Smith alone though. Beside Woodley, Michigan might be bringing the most dominating defensive front in the NCAA to Columbus on Saturday. Alan Branch and Terrance Taylor, two of the top defensive tackles in the Big 10, have been dominant at controlling and crashing the pocket while Rondell Biggs and Tim Jamison have contained on the opposite end spot. As a group, the Wolverines hope to have success at pressuring Smith with just a four man rush.
“We’ve got a lot of talent up front. (Alan) Branch, (Terrance) Taylor, Rondell Biggs and Tim Jamison, it’s not like they can just concentrate and focus on one guy. If you double-team me, you’ve got other coming. You double-team one of them, here I come. There’s all-around talent.”
With that in mind, there is one slight advantage that LaMarr Woodley has in preparing for the showdown in Columbus. Someone he sees in practice everyday.
“Jake Long is probably the best offense I've ever gone up against. He's big, fast and he's strong, and he's got good hands. So with Jake, you know, we compete every day in practice,” LaMarr said. “I'm not going to get a better look than Jake Long. He gets you ready for the game. If you take off a play, you know Jake will put you on the ground. Any time you go up against Jake, you've always got to be prepared for a battle."
The majority of the battles are done now, however, and as the team heads to Columbus in the very near future, the fact that this is his last regular season game in a Maize and Blue uniform, along with playing for a shot in the title game, is now setting in on Woodley, who, as a result, is ready to make a lasting impression in his last Big 10 conference game.
"It's definitely going to be a different feeling this year, because there's a lot on the line this year. It's already a big rival game. Both teams are undefeated in our conference, and it's a chance to compete and play in the national championship game. It’s definitely emotional, because it’s our last year. You don’t get another chance to do this again. How you leave your last year, that’s how you’re going to be remembered. I want to leave on a positive note."