The Ohio State Buckeyes upcoming game against the Wisconsin Badgers was supposed to be a battle between two teams vying not only for the Big Ten Title, but for a berth in the College Football Playoff. And while that is still technically on the table, following last Saturday’s loss at the hands of the Illinois Fighting Illini, the shine on Wisconsin has worn off dramatically, and in a hurry.
What had the potential to be a match-up between two top-five teams is still a respectable match-up of top-15 teams, but the Buckeyes opened up as 14.5-point favorites, and what was going to be the latest “first major test” now appears to be a speed bump in OSU’s journey to Indianapolis and then the CFP.
However, head coach Ryan Day and his team certainly don’t feel that way about the Badgers, as Wisconsin is still the best defense in the country, allowing only 193.9 yards per game (Ohio State is second at 229).
On Tuesday, Day met with the media for his regular weekly press conference and previewed the challenge ahead.
Check out the video of the press conference here:
Defense: Chase Young, Davon Hamilton, Jonathon Cooper, Tommy Togiai, Antwuan Jackson, Brendan White, Damon Arnette, Jeff Okudah, Sevyn Banks, Jordan Fuller, Amir Riep
Player of the Game: Malik Harrison
Offense: J.K. Dobbins, Master Teague, Luke Farrell, Jeremy Ruckert, Mitch Rossi, Chris Olave, K.J. Hill, Garrett Wilson, Wyatt Davis, Josh Myers, Branden Bowen
Players of the Game: Justin Fields, Jonah Jackson
Scout Team Players of the Week: Chris Booker, Brandon Pahl, Tommy Eichenberg, Zaid Hamdan
- The coach said that despite the fact that the Badgers lost a game that it wasn’t expected to, “They got great players on both sides of the ball, NFL players... This has got to be our best game of the year. It’s going to be our biggest challenge on both sides of the ball.”
- Day said that despite the potential implications of Saturday’s game, “We can’t worry about what this game means or doesn’t mean.”
- The coach noted that the Badgers, coming off of a loss, will be especially focused on rebounding this coming Saturday. He said, “They’re going to be more hungry than ever coming in.”
- In discussing Wisconsin’s quarterback Jack Coan, Day said “[Jonathan] Taylor’s the guy who gets them going, but Coan has done an excellent job managing that offense. He’s a good player.”
- On Taylor, Day said, “He’s strong, fast, can change direction.”
- While discussing the Badgers’ top-ranked defense, the OSU coach said, “I think it’s always a good benchmark to figure out where you’re at. This is the No. 1 defense in the country and we consider ourselves one of the best offenses in the country.”
- Day said that while Illinois found ways to attack Wisconsin’s defense, the Badgers are a tough team to find holes in. “They are so stout upfront... They are so powerful,” he said. “And then the back end, they are very well coached.”
- Day said that the bigger the game for his team, the more that they need to rely on their “Plan to Win.” He said that field position, great defense, the kicking game, and not turning it over will be incredibly important against Wisconsin.
- He said that, “we’ll find out where we’re at on Saturday... This is the ultimate test.”
- Day said that while many people — including his wife — thought that the first quarter was slow, but that his team scored a touchdown four minutes in, and that reflects just how high the expectations are in Columbus.
- He said that he thought that the energy and focus in the game coming off of the bye was very good against Northwestern. He also said that the way that they finished the game was just as impressive.
- Day said that the team’s leadership has been good at keeping everybody focused on the fact that “you are only as good as your last game.”
- He also said that there is a mix of things leading to a higher than desired number of sacks that the offense has given up. He said it is partially pass blocking, but also Fields holding onto the ball too long.
- He added that taking a sack on third down because the QB is looking to make a play isn’t the worst thing, because it can also lead to big pickups, as it did against Northwestern.
- Day said that each week he becomes more and more confident in what they are doing, but he tries not to get too far ahead of himself. He returns to his mantra that it only matters what you do that coming week.
- The coach said that he has been telling the team, “Let’s not let a loss make us fix our issues.” He said that they spend Sundays looking at their own film trying to fix problems that arise, even in wins.
- He noted that the addition of passing game coordinator Mike Yurcich has been a big help in setting game plans, especially since he is coming into the Big Ten with fresh eyes.
- Day notes that the reason that they lead the country in third-down conversions is because they have been able to stay on schedule and pick up yards on first and second down. That will be more difficult against the Badgers this weekend.
- Day confirmed that Baron Browning is dealing with an injury, but he has been “working through it” and is looking good lately.
- The head coach noted that offensive lineman Dawand Jones will likely play more than four games this season, meaning that he won’t be redshirting this season. He said that the freshman is very talented, and wants to get him experience.
- However, Day does not want to be foolish with either redshirting players, or not redshirting players.
- He noted that if there are opportunities to get true freshmen Cade Stover and Steele Chambers into games where they can help the team win, they will, but they aren’t going to burn a game for them just to get them meaningless playing time.
- Day complimented Thayer Munford for being willing to play injured against Northwestern. He then added that the extra day off has helped him, and he should be ready to go on Saturday.
- In talking about Fields’ transfer, Day said that they were familiar with the QB from his initial recruitment, so they were able to move pretty quickly once he entered the portal.
- The coach said that in these unique situations, you rely on information from as many people as possible, whether that’s from high school, college, camps, etc. “You use as many tools as you can.”
- Day talked about the silver lining of being able to build depth in the offensive line by getting Nicholas Petit-Frere in the game. While the coach admitted that the redshirt freshman didn’t play a perfect game, he competed for his team and got good in-game experience.
- On NPF, Day said, “He didn’t grade a champion, but he was competing the best he could.”
- He said that while Fields’ decisions have been very good thus far, “The passing game can look really foolish if there’s no protection.”
- He noted that arm strength is not exactly what most people assume it to be. It is as much about footwork and coaching as it is natural arm whip and innate ability.
- Day said that coming into the season, he didn’t have a lot of expectations for Master Teague, other than for him to get healthy. However, the RB has been incredibly good at working with coach Tony Alford to improve on his shortcomings.
- Day admitted that he feels the stress of preparation throughout the week, but he relaxes on Fridays, because the work’s been done. Then he said, “By the time you get to Saturday, the hay is in the barn.”
- The coach admitted that when — and if — he loses a game as a head coach, he is sure that he will take it harder than he did as an assistant. He said the expectations at Ohio State, especially as the head coach, means that a loss will let people down.
- He said that adjusting to the idea that a perfect season is the expectation at OSU took some time. But, he noted that you always have to figure out the culture of any place you are.
- “The expectations here are as high as they can be,” Day said. “It’s all about what your expectations are and every place has its own expectations.”
The No. 3 Buckeyes will host No. 13 Wisconsin on Saturday, Oct. 26 at 12 noon ET in Ohio Stadium. The game will be broadcast on FOX.