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Ryan Day, Ohio State missed a golden opportunity to bury Jim Harbaugh and TTUN

Between the sign stealing scandal, Harbaugh’s suspension, and the end of the Big Ten as we know it, OSU could have banished their rival to the shadow realm.

Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Let’s just get this part out of the way: Ohio State losing to Michigan really, really, really sucked. Selfishly, it ruined a late Thanksgiving gathering with my family. Because I am a fan, which is short for fanatic, and I become an insufferable prick when my team loses. Especially the one that I have rooted for since birth, which represents the school I attended, in the city where I was born and raised.

I can only imagine how it felt for most of the OSU players and coaches.

Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Going into The Game, I firmly believed that the Buckeyes would win. I felt confident in their defense and thought that Kyle McCord would be able to get the ball to his playmakers and let them (Marvin Harrison Jr., Emeka Egbuka, TreVeyon Henderson) cook. I certainly did not anticipate risk-averse coaching, interceptions, dropped balls, and missed tackles. Nor would I ever have imagined a visible lack of emotion and/or leadership when the chips were down.

Granted, we as fans are not privy to sideline interactions, but I sure as shit did not see McCord or any veteran defender(s) firing up the troops. If I missed that, then I own it. And I offer up a sincere apology. Each and every player who throws on the pads has my utmost respect regardless.

Unfortunately, what most of the current Ohio State roster does not have is a pair of coveted gold pants. The Buckeyes have not won this rivalry game since 2019, despite copious amounts of talent passing through Columbus. Seriously, we’re talking C.J. Stroud, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Paris Johnson Jr., and every single member of OSU’s 2021 recruiting class (the highest-rated class in program history). Not to mention all the others.

And the young Bucks on this roster, who probably grew up thinking it was damn-near impossible for the Scarlet and Gray to lose to the Maize and Blue... All without gold pants.

But guess what? I’ll get over it. I know that I will. Because I lived through the John Cooper era. Because I was somewhat surprised that Ohio State was in this position (11-0, chance to dance) to begin with — with a new QB, injuries, etc. Because TTUN was ranked No. 3 and playing at home. And above all else, because I am a realist, ok?

I know that my team is not entitled to anything. Knocking off a College Football Playoff contender at their place is never easy, I don’t care if the coach is Ryan Day, Nick Saban, or Vince freaking Lombardi. Last Saturday was never going to be a cakewalk. I mean, the Buckeyes were underdogs for a reason! That means they were not expected to win.

So I/you/we can all be mad at Day, McCord, whomever, but they lost to arguably the best CFB team in the country. The Game came down to turnovers, tackles, and a few fourth downs, as is the case with just about every football game ever played. And sometimes good-to-great teams just lose.

Now, all of that being said, the loss still sucks. Big time. And being a realist does not prohibit me from also being petty and vindictive. Those character flaws traits are why this particular OSU loss cuts so painfully deep. It stings and it hurts because the Buckeyes had a chance to do something special. Nay, magical. Something that would have brought a tear to my eye(s)...

With a win in the last ‘Game’ of its kind, Ohio State could have driven a nail into their rival’s coffin. Day and Co. could have buried Jim Harbaugh and TTUN six feet deep (metaphorically, of course), dumped shame and embarrassment on said coffin, and earned bragging rights for all of eternity.

Think about it: Harbaugh was embarrassingly sidelined for the sixth time this season, meaning he coached in as many regular season games as he was suspended for. This most recent suspension was the result of an ongoing sign-stealing investigation, which is only like the 20th different act, action, exploit, thing, whatever, that has earned ol’ Khaki Jim the ire of the NCAA and/or Big Ten. TTUN even had an interim head coach at the helm this past Saturday, who just a few weeks ago gave a tearful interview as if THEY had been done a tragic injustice...

Like, dude, what world are you living in!?

Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Beating a team and a program known the world over as your rival, while the latter is/was potentially on the ropes, would have been enjoyable enough for the Buckeyes, their fans, and perhaps most of all, their head coach. But that would not (even) have been the end or the extent of it. No, because this ‘Game’ was also the last of its kind.

With the B1G expanding and divisions going away – and the CFP expanding as well – OSU and TTUN will likely never play another regular season game with absolutely everything on the line. I’m talking conference title, CFP berth, AND bragging rights for at least a year.

Ohio State could have invalidated Harbaugh’s entire U of M coaching existence. His entire existence! Lost 100 straight bowl games... Cringey videos... Recruiting violations... Ducked the Buckeyes in 2020... Couldn’t beat them without stolen signs... Harbaugh would have become the laughingstock of the football world.

Barbara J. Perenic/The Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

And his beloved program may have followed suit. For those TUN fans who thought the Brady Hoke era was bad, how does the Butch Davis/vacated wins/bowl ban/scholly reduction era sound?

Who knows what will ultimately come of this whole sign-stealing saga, but now that program up north holds an odd arrow in their quiver. They can argue rogue agent, oblivious coach(es), AND attempt to minimize any advantage gained: “Hey Tony Panini, we know we had a few shady characters in the building, but why would we knowingly cheat in order to pants Ryan Day? We don’t need to!

Unfortunately, we will never find out what could or would have happened to the coach and the team up north with an Ohio State win. Because Day did not have (or at least show) a killer instinct. Afraid is probably the wrong word, but the Buckeyes’ coach was definitely risk averse. Day seemed to be coaching not to lose. And in his defense, there were also players who just didn’t play well. As opposed to the most recent Peach Bowl, when Day and most of his guys were hitting on all cylinders.

An opportunity wasted is how I will remember this past Saturday’s game. A golden opportunity wasted. Ryan Day and Ohio State could have buried Harbaugh and TTUN — and then prepared to dance on their rival’s grave. Instead, this moment got the best of Buckeyes and their coaching staff. And that sucks, too.

But I’ll get over it. For real, I will.

Go Bucks!