“The Buckeyes have matched their longest winning streak in the 115-game series, equaling a seven-game run from 2004 to 2010.”
- USA Today
This year’s Ohio State team has a chance to be one of the best in school history. Both the offense and the defense have been playing at a phenomenally high level, dispatching each and every opponent with ease — even when they cant get out of their own way like we saw against Penn State at times. However, for many people among the Buckeye faithful, no season can be considered a success unless you come away victorious against That Team Up North at the end of the year.
While Michigan still leads the all-time series thanks to all of its wins coming before football was even a real thing, the boys in Scarlet and Gray have absolutely dominated The Game since the turn of the century. Since 2004, Ohio State has won 14 of the last 15 matchups between the two schools, currently riding its second seven-game win streak in the history of the series. Urban Meyer went a perfect 7-0 in his Buckeye tenure, but it is with Ryan Day at the helm that OSU has a chance for its eighth win in a row against its rival, something that has not yet been accomplished by the Bucks in the history of the series.
Ohio State will likely make the College Football Playoff regardless of the outcome of the game against the Wolverines this Saturday, given they go on to win the Big Ten title. However, that does not mean there is any less at stake heading into Ann Arbor. The legacy as the head coach at Ohio State or Michigan is largely based on your performance in The Game. Day will get his first crack at it, but Jim Harbaugh is 0-4 against the Buckeyes, and an 0-5 record would put a huge stain on any of the mild success he’s had in trying to get the Wolverines back into the national conversation.
OSU was undefeated under Meyer, but that doesn’t mean the Buckeyes haven't been tested over this seven-year stretch — especially in Ann Arbor. Everyone remembers a nail-biting one-point victory for Ohio State in the 2013 rendition of The Game, and even as recently as 2017 the Bucks were tested big time by the home team before being able to pull away in the end for a 31-20 win.
Ryan Day has had about as great a season as a first-year head coach could ask for, leading his guys to the No. 1 spot in the College Football Playoff rankings heading into the final week of the regular season. However, like all of the Ohio State head coaches before him, his legacy will be written on how he performs in The Game.
“One day, Greg Mattison and Al Washington were rocking maize-and-blue Jordan brand gear. The next, they were decked out in scarlet-and-gray Nike apparel, working for the enemy.”
- Rainer Sabin, Detroit Free Press
Ryan Day wasted very little time assembling his new coaching staff after assuming the responsibility as Ohio State’s head coach. In a move that was a bit shocking, the first-year headman was able to pry away two big-time assistant coaches from it’s rival — Michigan’s defensive line coach Greg Mattison, and its linebackers coach Al Washington. The move was part of a flurry of offseason additions to the coaching staff, especially on the defensive side of the ball which struggled mightily in 2018. Having now seen the results to this point in the year, it has paid dividends.
Poaching two of the Wolverines’ defensive coaches may have seemed a bit questionable after Ohio State was able to run them out of Columbus with a 62-39 beatdown in which the Buckeyes put on a clinic against the Michigan defense. However, TTUN’s defense heading into that game was one of the best in the nation, and Day clearly liked what he saw in the two assistants and believed highly in their abilities.
So just what have the two former foes bring to Ohio State? Well, along with of course secondary coach Jeff Hafley, they have helped improve the Buckeyes defense from No. 53 in the nation in team defense a year ago to the No. 1 defense in the nation this season — most impressively, with almost the exact same roster on that side of the ball. OSU has allowed a FBS-leading 10.5 points per game, leading the nation in passing yards allowed per game (126.2) and No. 4 in opponents rushing yards per carry (2.6).
This is the game they have checked on their calendar since the time they’ve been here. They have something to prove,” said OSU linebacker Pete Werner.
The two assistant coaches are obviously aware there is a lot riding on this game, as there is every year, going up against their former team this weekend. However, Ohio State’s defense has been dominant all season, and both Mattison and Washington will look to continue that dominance against their employer-turned-rival.
In case you were in need of a quick pick-me-up before having to deal with your in-laws at the Thanksgiving table, just give yourself a quick reminder of how the 2018 Ohio State team, that at times was not very good, absolutely destroyed what people were calling one of the greatest Michigan teams of all-time. This is also a Chris Olave appreciation post.
Enjoy your holiday, everybody. Beat TTUN.
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