Denzel Burke has lived through the pain of two-consecutive losses to Michigan.
No. 2 Ohio State will get a shot at the No. 3 Wolverines in Ann Arbor on Saturday, trying to get back in the win column in the rivalry, and Burke said last season’s loss in Columbus especially hurt.
“It’s horrible, man,” Burke said. “Because especially when you’re at Ohio State, livelihoods are at stake. You got to win this game. It’s mandatory. We had to live with it 365 days and now it’s here so we’re ready.”
The junior cornerback has played at a different level in 2023. Burke had five passes defended a year ago, and this season he’s almost doubled that output at nine heading into the final week of the regular season.
Burke said on Tuesday that he feels “no pressure” heading into Saturday’s rivalry bout with the Wolverines. He said the Buckeyes “just got to go out there and ball and do what we know we can do” in order to erase the past two losses to their rivals.
“I’m very emotional,” Burke said. “I’m trying not to get out of character, but this game means a lot for us, and we’re going to get it done for the state of Ohio.”
Burke had a quick analysis of what stands out to him this season about 11-0 Michigan.
“Nothing,” Burke said. “We just got to go out there and do our job, man, and really compete, play hard for each other. And you know, we’re going to be the villain walking in there. And this game is really just about respect for us, especially my class the last two years. We haven’t got it done. No gold pants, so we just got to go out there and just be us.”
Even though Burke was sparse on the pregame scouting report of the Wolverines, he said there’s still a level of recognition of Ohio State’s rival.
“There’s respect for them,” Burke said. “We didn’t get done the past two years, and our job is to go up there and get it done.”
Burke said there were things that surprised him about playing in his first rivalry game during his freshman season in 2021.
The Phoenix, Arizona, native said he “never really knew the importance of that game,” and this season, Burke said he’s “really got a different whole perspective” heading into Saturday.
“It’s going to be fun,” Burke said. “Just thinking about the game my heart kind of — my blood boils. So I’m really just ready to go out there and do what we can do.”
The mentality for the Buckeyes as they go through rivalry week is a new one this year, Burke said. He’s part of an Ohio State defense that has played at a higher level this season, and the Buckeyes have the No. 3 total defense in college football allowing 252.9 yards per game.
Come Saturday, Ohio State will be put to the test to end its rivalry losing streak that began at the same place two years ago, and Burke said the Buckeyes will be ready.
“I’m not just doing it for myself, man, I’m doing it for my teammates,” Burke said. “I’m doing it for my head coach. I’m doing it for our coaches and I’m doing it for the state of Ohio, and we don’t want to let them down.”