COLUMBUS, OHIO, SEPT. 7 -- Ohio State Coach Earle Bruce says he is preparing his team for an opponent on a crusade in the Buckeyes' season opener against West Virginia Saturday in Ohio Stadium.

Among the crowd of 46,000 at the Mountaineers' 23-3 season opening victory Saturday over Ohio University were Ohio State coaches. They discovered that Moutaineer fans "seem to be taking this as a crusade for West Virginia against Ohio State," Bruce said at his media luncheon today.

"Because we are next-door neighbors, they've put a lot of emphasis on this game. It's one of those games that might mean a heck of a lot more to them than it means to us."

A capacity crowd of 89,000 is expected for the first football game between No. 4 Ohio State and West Virginia since 1903. A public lottery was used to distribute the 5,000 tickets allotted to West Virginia fans.

The Buckeyes are 78-7-4 in home openers.

Several things trouble Bruce about Ohio State's 98th opener. Offensive tackle Jay Shaffer has been hospitalized with an as yet undiagnosed illness that most likely will keep him out of the lineup. John Peterson, a 6-foot-4, 278-pound redshirt freshman, will fill in, along with 6-7, 284-pound sophomore Tim Moxley.

Bruce knows the Mountaineers have a game's experience already. "They've got a 10-yard start in a 100-yard dash, with a game under their belt," said Bruce, starting his ninth season as head coach of the Buckeyes.

Bruce says the Buckeyes traditionally are a slow-starting team. "We can't be catching people against West Virginia; we've got to be hitting people," he said.

Senior Tom Tupa, for three years Ohio State's punter and reserve quarterback, will start at quarterback.

"I expect him to have the jitters," Bruce said. "But his jitters should be cut down because of the playing time he got last year. He completed over 60 percent of his passes {30 of 49}. . . . He moved us well. And we've added some plays to use his strengths better."

Bruce said 6-2, 239-pound fullback George Cooper will be featured more in the offense after dropping 35 this summer. Ray Holliman, whose career was thought to be over after a knee injury a year ago, will start at defensive tackle.