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Column: Is next season national title or bust for Ryan Day?

Four seasons and no ring... what will happen in the fifth?

Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

It’s been a long time since Ohio State has won the National Championship. A whopping eight years! I say that honestly with only a bit of sarcasm. Since Ryan Day became the head coach of the Buckeyes, they have come close to hoisting up that trophy, but have fallen short each year. So, what does that mean for this next season?

Since Day took the reins in 2019, he has complied a 45-6 record. He’s only beaten TTUN once, back in his first season, with Justin Fields at quarterback. They didn’t play each other in 2020, and then lost to them the past two years. In 2019, Day and the Bucks lost to Clemson in the CFB Playoff. It was, at the time, a great run for his first season.

In 2020, he got redemption against the Tigers as Ohio State prevailed in the Sugar Bowl against them before getting creamed by Alabama in the title game. So, a step forward was made that year, as even with all of the craziness of the pandemic, the Buckeyes still advanced to the National Championship game.

Then 2021 happened. Ohio State lost to Oregon in the second game of the season. This was Day’s first big upset as head coach, but personally I didn’t take the loss too hard. I just was hoping that would be the only loss of the season, just like 2014 against Virginia Tech. Unfortunately, it wasn’t, as the Bucks lost to TTUN which officially put them out of the playoff conversation. The season ended with a thrilling Rose Bowl win against Utah, but still an overall disappointing season for Buckeye nation.

I’ll allow the fact that 2021 happened. Day had phenomenal first two seasons as head coach and was bound to slip up a bit at some point. All good though, 2022 would be the rebound year, right? The Buckeyes absolutely had to beat TTUN this year, as they had home field advantage. This would be the year they returned to the playoff and made a championship run.

Well, one of those things happened. Day is now 1-2 against that team up north. It’s very difficult to accept this loss. The entire season leading up to that game, the whole team and coaching staff was adamant that it wouldn’t happen again. There was absolutely no way they would lose two years in a row. But it happened. And one of the main reasons why was because of the coaching. That was definitely one of the worst games of his career.

Yet, Ohio State still made the playoffs. Okay, redemption time. It wasn’t Day’s fault that they lost. He did redeem himself, in my eyes, with his play calling. Yes, they did lose, but that doesn’t fall entirely on Day.

So, what does next year mean for him? He’s had an impressive first four seasons, but unfortunately the first two were better than the last two. With the talent this team has, and the offseason Jim Knowles will have to get the defense into shape, there is no reason why the 2023 team can’t win it all. The QB is unknown, yes, but with the veterans coming back that are hungry for a trophy, I don’t think it will matter who is behind center.

Let’s play some hypotheticals. If Day loses to TTUN for a third time, is he out? Is 1-3 against the rival too much to bear? I honestly don’t know. In my eyes, yes. That is your first and foremost goal every season, and if you fail to meet that goal three years in a row, I think you gotta go.

But, say he does beat TTUN, and assuming Ohio State is undefeated heading into the conference championship, say they win that too. Let’s assume the Buckeyes are in the playoff. If the Buckeyes get embarrassed in whichever bowl game they play in, you would think there would have to be some changes. If they lose like they did to Georgia this year, well, you can’t really blame Day once again.

It’s tough to say right now what Day’s fate will be. In simple terms, I think if he loses to TTUN again he’s out. You just can’t be the head coach of Ohio State and put a team on the field that is that unprepared in the biggest game of the season. But, is it natty or bust for him? Not necessarily. He just can’t have play-calling blunders like he did against Penn State and TTUN.

I think this season he certainly learned a lot, so let’s see what next season holds.


Is 2023 natty or bust for Ryan Day?

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