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It’s evident from another Ohio State rivalry loss that Ryan Day is unable to…..

Another Ohio State rivalry loss makes it clear: Ryan Day can’t escape his Michigan problem



ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The disappointment was obvious on Ryan Day’s face as he sat down for his

postgame news conference.

It was an all-too-familiar position for the Ohio State coach, who was tasked with addressing reporters after his third consecutive loss to Michigan, this time 30-24. The difference this year is that Saturday felt like a must-win game for both Day and his legacy.

There’s no debating that Day has been an extremely successful coach. He’s 56-7 in his time at Ohio State with two Big Ten championships and no finishes outside of the AP top six. But nothing matters more than beating Michigan.

After Saturday, Day is 1-3. And this wasn’t just any other rivalry game.

Saturday was one of the biggest in the history of Ohio State and Michigan, a matchup of two 11-0 teams ranked in the top three. It goes beyond the sign-stealing drama and Jim Harbaugh’s suspension. Saturday was the last time Ohio State and Michigan would play to determine the winner of the Big Ten East, in a game to figure out which undefeated team would presumably make the College Football Playoff and establish who really has control of the conference before it expands in 2024.

Day had a chance to flip any negative narrative about him. But, again, he couldn’t beat Michigan — and suddenly the John Cooper comparisons will be hard to avoid. Cooper went 2-10-1 against Michigan. Day’s record isn’t that far gone, but Saturday showed he doesn’t have just a Harbaugh problem. He has a Michigan problem.

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On Tuesday, Day was asked when he began understanding what the rivalry was really about.

“I think every year you learn more and more,” said Day, who first arrived at Ohio State as an assistant in 2017 and became head coach in 2019. “This will be my sixth time in The Game. You learn quickly when you’re here, but each year you learn more and it has a significant impact on you as a person. … When you come, whether it’s a coach or a player, you come here for one reason, to win that game. I guess every year you learn about that more and more.”

Nobody can say that Day doesn’t understand the magnitude of The Game. He just can’t win it.

Afterward Saturday, he said there are two keys to winning against Michigan: running the ball and turnover margin. Ohio State lost both of those. It was minus-2 in turnover margin and was outgained on the ground 156 yards to 107.

Day made changes after the 2021 season, in large part because the Buckeyes lost to Michigan for the first time in a decade. The offensive line wasn’t good enough in big games, so he brought in coach Justin Frye. The defense gave up 42 points and 297 yards rushing, so he brought in new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles. The results were the same in 2022: 45 points and 252 yards rushing.

Ohio State has had one of the best defenses in the country all this season, and it did hold the Wolverines under 200 yards rushing this time. But when Michigan needed yards and to eat time, it ran the ball right at Ohio State. Michigan ate seven minutes off the clock on its final possession and ran for 42 yards, converting two third-down attempts to set up a field goal. Again, it was the most physical team.

Blake Corum rushed for 88 yards and two TDs on Saturday. From USA Today, Rick Osentoski

Knowles said the performance wasn’t good enough.

“Ultimately you have to win this game,” Knowles said, “and I certainly feel like we were a play short and that’s something I have to work on.”

Ohio State still had a chance to win it, but the offensive line gave up pressure in quarterback Kyle McCord’s face. He was hit as he was throwing to an open Marvin Harrison Jr. The ball never reached its intended target and was intercepted.

The fact that Ohio State has lost three games in a row to Michigan is problematic on its own. But losing three in a row for many of the same reasons is a bigger issue. And it’s one that can’t be fixed right away.

Yes, Michigan is graduating a wealth of seniors — 14 started Saturday — so the Buckeyes could have an advantage next season. But there’s also a recruiting problem. The Buckeyes continue to miss on the recruiting trail with elite offensive linemen. And though the defensive line has two five-star prospects, it missed in the last cycle.

Perhaps more than any roster issues, Day’s play calling has been confusing, too. The most confusing call Saturday came just before halftime when he decided to run 30 seconds off the clock to attempt a 52-yard field goal. Jayden Fielding’s career long is 47. He missed.

Instead of running a play, trying to convert on fourth-and-2 and attempting a more manageable field goal, Day wanted to kick then. He said he would’ve done it even if it wasn’t the end of the half.

“I would’ve kicked the field goal,” Day said. “I just wanted the clock to run down so we’re out of the half.”

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But there’s the difference between the two programs. Michigan was an abysmal 3-of-12 on third down, but it converted three fourth-down attempts. The first was a 1-yard touchdown run by Blake Corum. The next two came on a 14-play touchdown drive.

The home team is supposed to be more conservative; instead, it was Day who made the conservative play calls.

“If you make it, you feel great; if you don’t, you don’t,” Day said. “We’ll second-guess everything. If you don’t convert on fourth-and-3, then you don’t get anything.”

But kicking there is something teams do when they have a kicker with proven range from that depth. Ohio State was taking a chance on a special teams unit that has been bad this year.

At the end of the day, there could be a debate about play calling for hours. The reality is that Ohio State, led by Day, has ceded complete control of the Big Ten to its bitter rival. The Buckeyes, who are one of the best teams in the country, couldn’t put it together against Michigan. Again.

Walking out of the stadium, two Michigan fans were celebrating by asking Ohio State fans, “What’s the excuse now?”

The honest answer is there isn’t one. Michigan just beat Ohio State and Day has to figure out how to change this or his legacy will be Cooper 2.0: a coach who was extremely successful but couldn’t win the game that matters most on the schedule. For many, that’s unacceptable.

So where does Ohio State go from here? Day didn’t have an answer after the game.

“It’s just after the game, so it’s hard to start thinking about all of that,” Day said. “You’re just trying to process the game right now and go from there.”

At this moment, it doesn’t matter if Ohio State somehow finds a way to get a backdoor College Football Playoff bid for a second consecutive year.

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