ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) -- Brady Hoke has added his own twist to The Game.
The Michigan coach refuses to identify his team's archrival by its proper name. He demands that his players respond with "Ohio" when he says the word "Beat." He offers the Wolverines constant in-their-face reminders about how much they've been dominated by the Buckeyes lately.
Bo Schembechler would've loved it.
Woody Hayes probably would've, as well.
Hoke will lead college football's winningest team against Ohio State for the first time Saturday, knowing that the expectation of a seven-point victory from odds makers is irrelevant after watching the storied series as a kid in Dayton, Ohio, and experiencing it up close as an assistant at Michigan under Lloyd Carr.
"You can be the favorite and the underdog, but none of that matters in this football game," Hoke said. "It never does.
"It's special because of the pridefulness that both teams have."
The 17th-ranked Wolverines (9-2, 5-2 Big Ten) seem to have much more to lose. They have a good shot to snap a school-record, seven-game losing streak in the series and possibly play their way into a BCS bowl for the first time since the 2006 season.
"It's kind of exciting," said Michigan tight end Kevin Koger, who hails from Toledo, Ohio. "If it is the BCS, better for us -- right?"
Not for Ohio State.
The Buckeyes (6-5, 3-4) are motivated -- especially the senior class -- to avoid being on the field for Michigan's first win over them since 2003.
Linebacker Andrew Sweat said Ohio State has "everything" to play for at the Big House.
"This game is bigger than any bowl game," Sweat said.
A loss would sink the Buckeyes to their first 6-6 season since 1999, John Cooper's next to last year, and end a season that has been miserable off and on the field with a lingering loss.
Jim Tressel, who had his way with Michigan, resigned because of a tattoo-parlor scandal that forced star quarterback Terrelle Pryor to leave, and several other players were suspended for multiple games.
Beating Michigan won't give interim coach Luke Fickell the job for good -- some have speculated it is already Urban Meyer's gig -- but might give him and his players a sweet ending on what has been a sour season.
"It would definitely say something if we came here and left without ever losing to them," Ohio State center Mike Brewster said. "It's definitely going to be a big memory and big part of our legacy. Even though this season has been rough, this would be a good way to end it."
When the Hoke era began at Michigan in January, he pounded his fist with each word he spoke about beating the Buckeyes.
Hoke had a meet-and-greet session with his new team at the Big House and later told the Wolverines they were to say "Ohio" when he said "Beat" every time they got together.
The coach, who never wears red and won't allow the color on clothes in Schembechler Hall, had clocks installed at team headquarters to count down the time before Saturday's game and posted signs showing players how many days it has been since they beat their archrival.
"You want to motivate your players on a daily basis," Hoke said. "It's just a reminder."
Ohio State has won the last seven games by an average of two-plus touchdowns -- by 25.3 on average the past three years against Rich Rodriguez -- not long after Michigan enjoyed a 10-2-1 run in the rivalry that dates to 1897.
Troy Smith started the streak, Pryor extended it and now it's Braxton Miller's turn to take snaps for the Buckeyes.
The 6-foot-3, 210-pound freshman has connected on fewer than half his passes with nine touchdowns and three interceptions. Miller matched his season high with 105 yards rushing in last week's loss to Penn State.
"He's just flat out a playmaker," Hoke said. "He's a tremendous athlete."
So is Michigan's Denard Robinson, who has run for 993 yards and 14 TDs -- carrying the ball fewer times by design -- and has completed at least 60 percent of his passes the past two games.
"He poses a lot of problems," Fickell said. "Anytime the quarterback's got the ability to keep plays alive, running the football, it makes you struggle a little bit on defense with some things you can do and the chances you can take."