Michigan Stadium Tartan turf is a tricky, hard-to-run-on surface, especially when it is wet. So Woody Hayes, not wanting "the local team" as he calls Michigan, to have any advantage in Saturday's showdown (WJAL-TV-7, 12:50 p.m.) with his Ohio State Buckeyes, found out what kind of shoes the Wolverines are planning to wear and then ordered the same kind.
"We want this to be a fair fight, don't we?" Hayes said.
As seems to be the case every football season about this time, Ohio State and Michigan once again are playing for the Big 10 championship, a trip to the Rose Bowl and a high spot in the national rankings. And both Hayes and Michigan coach Bo Schembechler are looking for anything that will give their team an edge.
"My biggest worry is the unexpected break that can turn the game around," said Schembechler.
"It's going to be a low-scoring, close game. I imagine it will go right down to the last play," Hayes said.
A crowd of 105,000 will be looking on.
The Buckeyes (9-1 and 7-0 in the conference), ranked fourth nationally, are two-point favorites over the fifth-ranked Wolverines, who also are 9-1 but 6-1 in the conference.
Ohio State's only loss was by one point to Oklahoma, 29-28, while Michigan was shut out by Minnesota, 16-0.
Ohio State is No. 1 in the country in scoring defense, yielding 7.1 points per game. Michigan has given up only 9.1 points.
The teams are very similar offensively. Both run the option from the I formation and rorely pass the ball.Ohio State is No. 1 in the nation in rushing, running for 332.6 yards per game. Michigan grinds out 270 yards a game on the ground.
"He (Hayes) has frequently chosen to throw the ball to surprise us, but I think he'll run on us this time," said Schembechler. "When you are in a big championship game like this, you don't want to start doing a lot of things that are foreign to you."
In the past, Woody Hayes has gone with a big strong fullback and a shifty toilback for most of this running. This season, Hayes decided to go with what moved 5-foot-10, 184-pound Jeff Logan, who gained 1,169 yards last year as a tailback, to fullback, so Logan's backup - 6-2, 196-pound Ron Springs - could get more playing time. But Logan injured an ankle in his first game of the season.He never got in gear until last week when he gained 148 yards against Indiana.
Logan has 499 yards in 78 carries. Springs, meanwhile, has been a workhorse, gaingin 1,003 yards n 176 carries. With both of them running well, the Buckeyes are stronger offensively than at any other time this season.
When Hayes wants a big fullback, he'll bring in 215-pound Paul Campbell or 222-pound Joel Payton. Campbell has gained 426 yards. Payton has 349 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Ohio State's offensive key is quarterback Rod Gerald. He has run for 393 yards and seven touchdowns and passed for 769 yards and three more scores. He has been intercepted eight times while completing 47 of 81 passes.
Gerald's Michigan counterpart is Rick Leach, who has passed for 1,054 yards and 13 touchdowns, completing 73 of 138. He has run for 397 yards and six more scores. Leach needs to produce only one more touchdown to break the Michigan career record of 50 he shares with Tom Harmon.
The leading Wolverine rusher is fullback Russell Davis, who is from Woodbridge, Va. He has gained 957 yards - a 5.0 average.
Michigan's breakaway back is tailback Harlan Huckleby. He has been hindered by a pulled hamstring and did not play last week.
Schembechlr said he would choose his starting tailback from among Huckleby, Roosevelt Smith and Stanley Edwards just before game time. Tight end Gene Johnson is definitely out with a bad knee.
A victory or a tie would send Ohio State to the Rose Bowl, but even the loser is assured of a major bowl bid. Indications are that the loser will be offered - and will accept - a bid to play Southeastern Conference champion Alabama iin the Sugar Bowl.
Bowl bids will go out after Saturday's game, but Hayes and Schembechler cringe whenever any bowl other than the Rose is mentioned. Neither will talk about where the loser will go.
Both coaches have also had their differences with officials. Schembechler was reprimanded sternly for his behavior toward them earlier this season by Big 10 Commissioner Wayne Duke.
"The officials are as important as anything I know and it hasn't been a good year for them," Schembechler said. "I just hope the officials are good Saturday and have nothing to do with the outcome of the game."
In other games, Washington can move closer to the Rose Bowl with a victory over Washington State in battle. If the Huskies lose, they are out, but if they win, and USC beats UCLA Friday, they go to the bowl. Stanford can keep its slim Rose Bowl hopes alive with a victory over California.
Barring an unforseen bowl invitation, Terry Miller, the nation's leading rusher and Heisman Trophy candidate, will play his last game for Oklahoma State against Iowa State.