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Column: The Buckeyes’ mental fortitude could be the key to a postseason run

These guys do NOT give in.

Maryland v Ohio State Photo by Ben Jackson/Getty Images

How many times have we heard Ryan Day talk about how tough this Ohio State team is? For me, I feel like I see something about it every day. It may be a tad bit overdone, especially with the Lou Holtz situation, but honestly, this toughness could be the difference between making it to the national championship or not.

There have been three different instances this year where the Buckeyes have either been tied or have a one possession lead over their opponents after the first half. In the first game of the season, they only led 10-3 at halftime against Indiana, a game where the Bucks were 30-point favorites.

Against Notre Dame, they only led 3-0 at the half, and were actually losing until there was one second left in the game. Most recently, against Maryland, they were tied 10-10 at the half against the Terrapins who were unranked.

Maryland v Ohio State Photo by Ben Jackson/Getty Images

So, what is my point in all of this? Ohio State is 5-0 on the season. They have been down in three games this season, or at least now blowing out their opponents like Western Kentucky and Youngstown State, yet they still come out on top. For the Indiana game, the Buckeyes ended up pulling it together and winning 23-3.

We all know what happened with Notre Dame, and they had a very strong second half against Maryland. Defeating two conference opponents and a very good Fighting Irish team is no easy feat, but they did so by coming back and finishing the game better than they started — and THAT is the key to a successful team in my opinion.

Now obviously, it would be preferable for them to play their hearts out 100% of the time and not have to wait until the second half to turn on the jets. When facing opponents like Penn State and TTUN, it will be very difficult to flip a switch in the second half and just completely outplay both of them.

Syndication: USA TODAY Kyle Robertson / USA TODAY NETWORK

However, the fact that the Buckeyes have faced these deficits this early on in the season and can still find a way to win is very encouraging. It doesn’t get into a much tougher situation then playing on the road, in a top-10 matchup at night and it coming down to the final seconds to pull off a victory. If they can do that, and then build upon it the rest of the season, their confidence and mental strength are going to be HARD to knock down.

This Ohio State team is definitely playing with a chip on their shoulder this season. They have heard the doubts the past couple of years now, and haven’t been able to completely quell them after losing to TTUN two years in a row, and failing to make it to the national championship since 2020.

Will this be the year that all of that changes? So far, so good. As long as the Bucks don’t become complacent, which I don’t see happening, and continue to improve every week, I don’t see how they can be defeated with the grit and mental toughness that they have. Penn State will be the ultimate test of this, so we will have to wait and see.