In the last decade, the Ohio State football department saw a massive change in play. Fans and pundits stood back and watched as the Buckeyes team transformed into an iconic college crew.
Head coach Urban Meyer led the team to become one of the most successful in the NCAA. However, this impressive record came up short at a few crucial, unexpected times.
There were confusing losses, such as the Buckeyes 2014 loss to Virginia Tech. Others were more frustrating, like those that barred Meyer’s Buckeyes team from advancing to conference championships and a run in the NCAA Playoffs against Michigan and Penn State.
Even in 2017, as the Buckeyes were at the top of their game, a loss to the inferior Iowa State left fans frustrated and baffled. In the NCAA, we know these losses as ‘trap games’, in which an obviously superior team loses to a team they were expected to blow through.
In 2019, the Meyer era at Ohio State came to a close. Despite a history of trap games, no one could argue that Meyer accomplished anything less than a total overhaul of the Buckeyes football program.
Then, to the surprise of many, a relatively unknown coach from New Hampshire was called to the forefront. Ryan Day was an unknown quantity to many when he first joined Meyer’s team as an offensive coordinator in 2017. However, the Buckeyes latest coach didn’t just survive his first year—he thrived.
But can he keep it up?
Day Takes Over
Many point to Day’s success helming the Buckeyes to a previous overhaul in which new, cutting-edge infrastructure elevated Ohio State’s football department (along with Meyer’s expertise). Either way, Day’s 13-1 season doesn’t lie.
Fans and pundits who follow American football betting odds in the Big Ten will expect a conference title, but Day’s handlers at Ohio State will be looking instead at a national championship. After all, Year Two is a pivotal time for any head coach to stake their claim.
During Meyer’s second year of tenure with the Buckeyes, he managed to win a National Championship in Florida. Other reputable coaches, from Nick Saban at LSU (and Alabama), as well as Scott Frost of UCF, have all built fierce reputations on their Year Two performance.
In reality, Day has to make it a perfect season (a la Frost) if he wants to beat his 13-1 2019-20 season. This record included two crucial wins: defeat over rivals Michigan State and the vanquishing of Wisconsin at the Big Ten Championship.
So, what does Ryan Day need to do to survive a Year Two pivot?
Keep the Infrastructure & Make it to the Championship
In short, fans and pundits are looking at Day to toe the line. Many point to his success as being a mere extension of Meyer’s hard work. After serving as Meyer’s offensive coordinator for two years, Day knew the ropes—in fact, everyone on his team did.
If Day can maintain the solid infrastructure that Meyer put in place while tweaking what needs to be altered, he’ll continue with a strong and balanced team. However, if his crew plans on defeating an offensive juggernaut like LSU to advance in the 2020 season, they’ll need to figure out how to parry or slow similar teams.
It’s going to be difficult to top Ohio State’s previous season, which was their strongest since they became national champions in 2014. At this point, Day’s upcoming season will be make-or-break, reliant on him exceeding his previous season’s near-perfect record.
Anything less than a Championship match will disappoint fans, but Day has a few positions to fill. Namely, there’s replacing Jordan Fuller, a free safety who just moved to the LA Rams. At the moment, there’s speculation about who will replace him: Josh Proctor or Marcus Hooker?
These decisions come down on defensive coordinator, Kerry Coombs, just as much as they do Day. However, it’ll be Ryan Day on the chopping block if he and his team can’t make this pivot together in year two.