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‘What If?’ You’re Nuts: If Ohio State loses to Notre Dame, is Ryan Day on the hot seat?

What if the Buckeyes lose to the Fighting Irish for the first time since 1936?

Ohio State v Michigan Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images

Everybody knows that one of the best parts of being a sports fan is debating and dissecting the most (and least) important questions in the sporting world with your friends. So, we’re bringing that to the pages of LGHL with our favorite head-to-head column: You’re Nuts.

In You’re Nuts, two LGHL staff members will take differing sides of one question and argue their opinions passionately. Then, in the end, it’s up to you to determine who’s right and who’s nuts. This time, the guys will be keeping in tune with the theme of the week: What If?

This week’s topic: What if Ohio State loses to Notre Dame?

Josh’s Take:

What if Ohio State loses to Notre Dame on Sept. 3? That is a question many (some... alright, a few) people have asked this offseason — because we are bored, and would rather talk sports before current events. And how would such a loss reflect on Ryan Day? Well, knowing the Buckeyes’ fan base, I would say: not great, Bob!

Losses to Oregon, TTUN, and Notre Dame – all within a calendar year – could lead one to question Day’s preparation and/or gameplan for big games. Others, like myself, would remind you that the OSU head coach has a 34-4 record, and is doing all the right things off the field. Hell, you want to get nuts!? Let’s get nuts... I would actually be more inclined to begin work on Day’s statue, before I pushed for him to be placed on the hot seat.

Please do not assume that I am willing to give the coach a free pass here. Dropping two out of three would not be a good look. But we are not talking about losses to Rutgers and/or Maryland. The Rivalry matchup last season was a tough pill to swallow, but Ohio State was simply the inferior team that day. TTUN was tougher, more physical, and seemingly broke the will of the Buckeyes late. Day shoulders some of the blame for that. Those Wolverines also earned a spot in the CFB Playoff, for what it’s worth.

Notre Dame lost a few players from last year’s squad, and they are breaking in a new head coach, but they also return a bunch of talent, have added a potential All-American safety familiar with OSU, and this is Marcus Freeman’s Super Bowl or CFB Championship Game (because his team will not actually make an appearance in the latter). The Fighting Irish should be plenty motivated.

In my opinion, Day has not experienced a bad loss. And a loss to the Irish should not be categorized as such. Untimely? Sure. Embarrassing? Maybe... But Notre Dame is, or will be, a top-10 team in every preseason CFB poll that matters. I hope they end up as a .500 team when all is said and done, but they are viewed through rose-colored glasses each and every September. If – and I currently view it as being unlikely – Ohio State does lose to ND, Day’s losses will have been: the 2020 Fiesta Bowl, the 2021 CFP title game, the matchup with Oregon (played in the Pac-12 title game), a dud against TTUN (CFP appearance), and to a top-10 ND team with a ton of momentum.

Now, compare those losses to a few of the ones suffered by Day’s predecessor, Urban Meyer: unranked Virginia Tech (redeemed himself), unranked Penn State, shutout by Clemson, smacked my unranked Iowa, smacked by unranked Purdue. And you’re telling me people will be calling for Day’s figurative head!? Meyer is widely considered to be one of the all-time greats – justifiably so – but some fans have developed amnesia when comparing the two coaches.

Buckeye fans should also take into account that Day’s first loss was a travesty the likes of which this world had never seen (not over it). He also survived the 2019 gauntlet, broke the Clemson curse, and motivated his team to win the 2022 Rose Bowl when they could have easily checked out. It is certainly fair to criticize the losses, but impressive wins should be praised as well.

Lastly, let’s just look at what Day is doing away from the field. He is recruiting at an elite level. Sure, the head coach has plenty of help, but recent classes are just as good – if not better – than those signed by Meyer. Day takes an active role in the recruiting and development of quarterbacks, and they are thriving at OSU. He has built of factory that produces nothing but QB gold. That has also carried over to other positions, putting the Buckeyes in position to compete for national titles on an annual basis.

More important than even the football “stuff”, is the fact that Day is a great dude. I was going to say man, but it felt too formal. He is not mixed up or mentioned as part of any scandals, he is open, up front, and honest about the current CFB landscape (NIL, transfers, etc.), and has become an important and high-profile advocate for mental health. Kids, parents, and media types should all appreciate his transparency and willingness to address issues, and I think all of that just makes him a leader you want as the face of your program.

Ohio State fans have high expectations, myself included. Ryan Day has welcomed copious amounts of talent to Columbus in 3+ years, but the Buckeyes have failed to win a national title. Embarrassing losses to Alabama and TTUN have not helped his case, at least in the eyes of the “most passionate” fans. To those fans I would ask: What is the backup plan? Who exactly is coming in with a .950 winning percentage? And how spoiled are you (we)? Day is not a perfect coach, but he has maintained OSU’s enviable status among the CFB elite. If his team loses to Notre Dame... oh well. Let’s have a serious conversation if/when the Buckeyes go 9-3.

Gene’s Take:

Let me start this out by saying I am by no means calling for the head coach’s job. I do think Ryan Day is the right man to lead Ohio State right now, and I am hoping he sees tremendous success as the headman of the Buckeyes and brings a couple of national titles to Columbus before he inevitably becomes the ‘guy after the guy’ that takes over for Bill Belichick in New England. However, for the time being, I think the 2022 campaign is tremendously important for Day’s tenure, whether that be in the eyes of the fan or Ohio State’s athletic department.

Like Josh stated above, Day has yet to lose to an Iowa or a Purdue quite like Urban Meyer did towards the end of his tenure. His losses have come to respectable teams, but the way in which those games were lost have been troubling. He certainly gets a pass for the 2019 Fiesta Bowl loss to Clemson, as Ohio State absolutely wins that game if one or two things break differently. However, the losses the Alabama (in the national title no less), Oregon and Michigan have all been ugly — regardless of the level of the opponent. The Buckeyes didn’t just come up short, they were non-competitive.

The Crimson Tide were the only team of those three to come into the game with a pure talent advantage, albeit not by much. A 52-24 loss on the biggest stage isn’t pretty, even with Ohio State down a handful of guys and the greatest coach the sport has ever seen in Nick Saban roaming the other sideline. Even if you want to give Day a pass for a loss against the sport’s best team during a COVID season, the losses against Oregon and Michigan have been arguably even uglier. The Buckeyes were the more talented team on paper heading into both of those games, and on the field they looked unprepared, physically outmatched, and were out-coached by a wide margin.

Josh brought up how well Ryan Day has done as a recruiter, and that is certainly true. Ohio State has rounded up class after class of phenomenal talent under Day. But at what point does having all of that talent actually work against the head coach’s argument? The Buckeyes have the more talented roster against any opponent they could play on the field outside of Alabama and Georgia (No. 1 and No. 2 in the 247Sports Talent Composite, with OSU at No. 3). The players on your team are better than the players on the other side. At the end of the day, the only different becomes coaching, and that responsibility falls on the man at the top.

That being said, Day has done what appears to be an excellent job of fixing some of those coaching problems outside of his control. Day’s offense, even with a stale and predictable run game that could use some tuning, has been great. It is the defense has plagued Ohio State these past few seasons, and so he’s brought in Jim Knowles as well as Tim Walton and Perry Eliano to clean up those issues. These guys likely won’t be able to fix the physicality issues the Buckeyes have run up against, which is why I think Mick Marotti also should’ve gotten the boot this offseason, but it’s a step in the right direction nonetheless.

If Ryan Day loses to Notre Dame to start the year, becoming the first Ohio State head coach to lose to the Fighting Irish since 1936, I think the talks will begin. I understand all of the motivation Marcus Freeman and his squad have coming into this one, but once again the Buckeyes will be the more talented team on the field, on their home turf, with certainly a bunch to prove in their own right. Will he be fired for losing a non-conference game to a top-10 opponent to begin the season? No, but his seat will begin to heat up for sure — especially if Ohio State loses in the same fashion we’ve seen in their last two losses.

Extrapolating further, if Day were to lose to Notre Dame AND suffer a second-straight loss to Michigan, then I think it is infinitely more likely that Ohio State decides to move on. While this may seem harsh, and you may be asking ‘but who else could they find that’s better?’ I will tell you. His name is Luke Fickell, he just got a Group of 5 team into the College Football Playoff, and he already resides within your own state borders. If Ryan Day loses to the Irish and the Wolverines and misses the CFP for the second year in a row with all of the talent currently on his roster, I would not be at all surprised to see Fickell roaming the sidelines in Columbus in 2023.

Dont @ me.