After just one single year as head coach of one of the most dominant programs in the nation, Ryan Day is ranked No. 7 in Sporting News’s Bill Bender’s annual rankings of all 130 college football coaches heading into the 2020 season.
Sporting News ranked all 130 coaches based on career accomplishments, and both last season and the past three years. When it gets tight, they took the coach they’d like in a head-to-head matchup, according to Bender.
The SEC led the way with eight coaches in the top 25, followed by the Big Ten with six. The Big 12 had four top 25 coaches, followed by the ACC and Pac-12 with three each.
Day is preceded by Alabama’s Nick Saban, Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, LSU’s Ed Orgeron, Oklahomas’ Lincoln Riley, Georgia’s Kirby Smart, and Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly.
Here’s what Bender had to say about Day’s No. 7 spot, following some of the most iconic veteran head coaches:
“This ranking might seem too aggressive based on a one-year sample, but Day is coming off one of the most dominating seasons in Big Ten history. The Buckeyes are innovative on offense, and the recruiting machine has not slowed down. Check the rankings. That’s why he’s the best coach in the conference right now, and he will be top five on this list soon enough.”
Bender had Day ranked 22nd going into the 2019 season...but didn’t we all? There were a whole lot of skeptics when it was announced that Day would be taking over for Urban Meyer— myself included. Sure, he was one of the best offensive coordinators and quarterbacks coaches around, and, yes, we saw a glimpse of him at the reigns when he took over as interim head coach when Meyer was suspended in 2018, but could he live up to the so very high expectations that the Ohio State football head coaching job holds? And by high expectations, I mean Buckeye fans expect a national championship run every. single. year.
I wanted to believe in Day, but like many of you, I had my doubts. I came to terms with the fact that Ohio State may have a few rebuilding years ahead of them. There’s no way we could have hit the head coaching jackpot again.
Honestly, I should’ve known better than to think that Meyer and the Ohio State Athletics powers that be would put some Joe Schmo in charge of their golden child that is the football team. They obviously knew something we didn’t: Ryan Day was the man for the job and then some.
In his first season as head coach, Day exceeded all expectations. I remember reading multiple pre-2019 season articles and tweets that said something along the lines of:
“If he can at least win 10 out of 12 games, that’d be a good first year for him.”
“If we lose to Cincinnati, we could still potentially make it to the playoffs.”
“As long as he beats Michigan.”
To which Ryan Day replied:
Day went on to lead the Buckeyes to an undefeated regular season, a third straight Big Ten championship, a No. 2 ranking in the College Football Playoff and sent two (should’ve been three) players to the Heisman Trophy ceremony. The 2019 Ohio State football team played cleaner and smarter than any Urban-led team, and that is coming from Urban’s No. 1 fan over here.
And while it doesn’t contribute to the 2020 season which Bender’s rankings are based on, Day managed to put together (during a global pandemic) the top-ranked 2021 recruiting class in the nation—which is probably why Bender expects him to be a top-five coach on his list in the very near future.
However, the 2020 season should get every bit of the limelight until then. With a returning Heisman finalist in quarterback Justin Fields— who’s projected to go No. 2 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft, an NFL-worthy cornerback in Shaun Wade, insane depth at wide receiver, a stacked O-line, and the incoming 2020 class ranked No. 5 in the nation, its no wonder the Buckeyes are the favorite to win the Big Ten (yet again) and have found themselves ranked No. 1 in many a preseason ranking.
And while I doubt Bender took this into consideration with his list, it’s worth noting that Day is not only an incredible coach, he’s an even better person. Between his commitment to mental health advocacy, his leadership during these unprecedented times due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the way he’s handled the Black Lives Matter movement, Buckeye fans should feel nothing but grateful to have a coach like Day at the wheel.
Not every fanbase gets to say the same thing about their head coach, no matter how many national championship trophies they might have.