Capitals

Old grudge match has new feel with Hoke, Meyer

Old grudge match has new feel with Hoke, Meyer

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Once upon a time, ``The Game'' was just another game.

When Michigan and Ohio State played, sure, it was important. After all, the schools put it at the end of their schedules in 1935 in recognition of that fact.

But it never really was an epic battle until two longtime friends ended up on opposite sides and transformed it into an over-the-top grudge match.

``The Bo Schembechler/Woody Hayes era, when college football began to explode on a national level - that's what made this such a visual rivalry for the country to see,'' said Ohio State coach Urban Meyer.

Now, more than 40 years later, two coaches steeped in the rivalry - each more than willing to toss a little disrespect toward the other side - will be prowling the sidelines in the 109th meeting on Saturday.

Is this the second coming of the ``Ten Year War''?

``It's a new face for the rivalry, of course, but the rivalry is bigger than any one individual,'' said Michigan offensive lineman Patrick Omahmeh.

Just like Schembechler and Hayes, Meyer and Michigan's Brady Hoke are ultra-competitive Ohio natives who don't hide the fact that they can barely abide their chief rival.

Hoke refers to Ohio State as just ``Ohio,'' which makes Buckeyes fans' blood boil. Meyer has taken a page from Hayes and refuses to utter the ``M-word,'' instead calling it ``That Team Up North.''

A chippiness has returned to this staid old annual showdown. It was already evident a year ago when the sides traded shoves, obscenities and taunts in Hoke's first game (a 40-34 victory) as a head coach in the series.

It's even more palpable this year with Meyer joining the fray, 25 years after he was a graduate assistant on Earle Bruce's staff and learned firsthand from Hayes, Bruce and the others to despise the Wolverines.

Hoke is not sold on the theory that the head coaches, at least since the last of the 10 Schembechler-Hayes battles in 1978, have much influence on the rivalry. But he does agree that it doesn't hurt when both ``get'' what the game means to so many.

``There's a lot of passion on both sides,'' he said. ``When you've kind of grown up in the rivalry - either in the state of Ohio or in the state of Michigan - you understand it's the most important game of the year.''

Adding to the enmity this year - so often the case - is both sides having a lot riding on the outcome.

The fourth-ranked Buckeyes (11-0, 7-0 Big Ten) want to complete a perfect season - if perfection is even possible without going to a bowl. NCAA sanctions have sidelined Ohio State from the national championship conversation.

The Buckeyes have already won the Big Ten's Leaders Division, but cannot play in the title game next week. They will get a trophy and each of the players will be fitted for championship rings.

The No. 20 Wolverines (8-3, 6-1) are shooting to upgrade to an even better bowl. No one in maize and blue is saying it, but upsetting the Buckeyes' dreams of an unbeaten, untied season wouldn't be so bad, either.

The Wolverines were hoping to grab a spot in the Big Ten championship game, but No. 17 Nebraska - which owned the tie-breaker by virtue of its win over Michigan - beat Iowa 13-7 on Friday to represent the Legends Division. The Wolverines, who had playing in the title game as one of their major goals, can still grab a share of the division crown with a win over the Buckeyes.

Michigan's hopes rise and fall on a defense that leads the nation against the pass but is considerably less stout against the run - which happens to be Ohio State's strength.

The Buckeyes depend on quarterback Braxton Miller's legs, whether on set plays or when a pass play breaks down and he sprints past lunging linemen through the heart of the field for big yardage.

The Wolverines also rely on their quarterback. Now they just have to figure out who their quarterback is.

Devin Gardner has started the last three games, accounting for at least three TDs in each, since four-year star Denard Robinson hurt a nerve in his throwing elbow. Now Robinson may see time at tailback, in the slot, out wide or even under center. It's the biggest mystery in a game where there are few unknowns.

``I'm here and I'm ready for Ohio,'' Robinson said.

Hayes once co-wrote a book titled, ``You Win With People.'' He believed that it was the coach's domain to stockpile talent and then put players in the best position to win, but that the athletes did the rest.

Meyer believes coaches handle the preparation and set the tone.

``Getting your guys prepared up to the kickoff, getting the team mentally and physically ready to go,'' he said of his role. ``Ultimately it is the players who win or lose games.''

Spoken just like his iconic predecessors.

---

Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter:http://www.twitter.com/rustymillerap

Quick Links

Game 6 Capitals at Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

Game 6 Capitals at Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

After three straight wins, the Caps now sit just one win away from closing out the Columbus Blue Jackets. They will get their shot to finish the series Monday in Game 6.

Nicklas Backstrom was the hero in Game 5 for Washington with three points including the overtime winner. Who will step up in Game 6? The Caps will need to make sure it's not Artemi Panarin who has been held without a point in two straight games. Washington will also need to make sure their penalty kill stays hot as they have killed off 13 straight power plays for the Blue Jackets.

The Pittsburgh Penguins await the winner of this series after closing out the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday. Will the Caps close out Columbus and set up the rematch?

What: Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets, Round 1, Game 6

Where: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio

When: 7:30 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 6 will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 6 on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

The Capitals take on the Blue Jackets in Game 6 on Monday, April 23 at 7:30 p.m. ET in Columbus. Washington currently leads the series 3-2.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME ON?

Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 6 will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:30 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 7:00 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:30 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:30 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:30 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:30 p.m. — Capitals at Blue Jackets
10:00 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:30 p.m. — Caps in 30

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

Capitals-Blue Jackets Game 6, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

Here are the Caps' projected lines:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Chandler Stephenson - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly- Lars Eller - Devante Smith-Pelly
Jakub Vrana -  Jay Beagle - Alex Chiasson

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Christian Djoos

Braden Holtby with Philipp Grubauer as backup.

Scratches: Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky (upper-body), Shane Gerisch, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek

CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.

SEE THE CAPITALS VS. BLUE JACKETS FULL SERIES SCHEDULE HERE

CAPITALS SCHEDULE

Quick Links

Need to Know: Setting the final odds on the Redskins first-round draft pick

Need to Know: Setting the final odds on the Redskins first-round draft pick

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, April 23, three days before the 2018 NFL draft.  

Setting the odds on the Redskins’ top pick

We have just three days left until the draft and it’s time to make the final predictions. For the last time before this draft, we’re going to break out the $100 in imaginary poker chips and see who is the favorite to be the Redskins’ top pick. 

Before we get started, all of these odds are set with the Redskins staying at No. 13. With a separate stack of chips, I’ll put $20 on them trading down, $80 on them staying put. There just isn’t an obvious team to deal with or a player that would be on the board to make a team want to move up. 

DT Vita Vea, $30—I would have this a little higher but I’m becoming less confident that he’ll be on the board when the Redskins draft at 13. Normally nose tackle isn’t a high-value position, but this is an odd draft and Vea is a freakish talent. He has to get past the Raiders picking tenth and the Dolphins at No. 11 and I’m not sure they will. 

S Derwin James, $20—If Vea is gone then there is a good chance that James will be there at 13, assuming that the four quarterbacks everybody thinks will go in the top 12 are indeed selected. Although the Redskins have D.J. Swearinger and Montae Nicholson at safety, the versatile James could find snaps all over the field, as a third safety to cover tight ends and perhaps even at slot corner. 

DT Da’Ron Payne, $15—It’s starting to look like he’ll be a reach at 13; his real value lays more in the late teens or early twenties. But the analysts’ consensus doesn’t necessarily match up with what the Redskins think. If they believe that Jim Tomsula can coach some pass rushing ability out of him, they could well have him graded high enough to go ahead and fill the need with the first-round pick. 

LB Roquan Smith, $10—His size may concern enough teams to leave him on the board until the Redskins are on the clock. I’m not sure that the Redskins would take him because they just re-signed Mason Foster and Zach Brown. But he is fast, hard hitting, and he may be too good to pass up. 

DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, $10—Many project him to be a slot corner in the NFL. A few years ago, many teams would hesitate to take a nickel corner in the first-round. But today, with teams lining up with three or more wide receivers on 63 percent of the snaps a slot corner is much more than a role player. Add Fitzpatrick’s ability to move back to safety and you have a player the Redskins should covet if he drops to 13. 

CB Denzel Ward, $10—I don’t give much of a chance of being on the board when the Redskins pick but stranger things have happened. He would be a steal at 13.

RB Derrius Guice, $5—I don’t think that this will happen, but I can’t look at all of the attention the Redskins have given to him and believe that there is a zero chance of them taking a running back this high in an RB-rich draft.  

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS.

Tandler on Twitter

Timeline  

Days until:

—Rookie minicamp (5/11) 18
—OTAs start (5/22) 29
—Training camp starts (7/26) 94

The Redskins last played a game 113 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 139 days. 

In case you missed it