Threat Level is Not Quite Sure Where to Go From Here

By Johnny Ginter on November 27, 2023 at 7:25 pm

The most difficult thing about absorbing a devastating defeat is figuring out the best way to properly contextualize how pissed off you are.

In grad school, I was part of a mid-level intramural softball team. In my younger years I was always weirdly kind of okay at base/softball ("weirdly" because I was garbage at every other sport), so I felt that at least I wasn't making things worse. In the playoffs we were playing a team clearly a hell of a lot better than us, and I found myself at bat in the bottom of the ninth, down by like five runs with two outs and nobody on.

The pitcher was doing some douchey backspin toss to me, and the first pitch was about a foot over my head. This was called a strike. I looked at the umpire, a bored 20 year old probably stoned out of his mind, and he just shrugged. "That's a strike bro."

Okay, fine. The next pitch was also a foot over my head, but I said the hell with it and swung, making partial contact and chopping it directly in front of the plate. Knowing that I was screwed, I rushed the mound and punched the pitcher in the face. I'm kidding! That'd be assault, and I'd have to be some kind of enormous asshole to start a fight over something like that.


Instead I ran to first base and got thrown out by a step. That was that. Game over, season over, and about 15 years after that I'd break my collarbone and make it so I couldn't even really swing a bat anymore. Shit.

Anyway! Afterwards, I was driving one of my teammates back to the dorm after and a song I liked came on the radio. I cranked it, he got pissed, and turned it off. "We just lost." And, well... yeah, we did. But my inclination was to move on from that as quickly as possible, drowning out the voice in my head screaming "YOU SUUUUCCCKK" with some B-grade early 2000's alterna-rock. Wade wanted to stew and be pissed for a bit. And look: both approaches are valid. Every person has to deal with disappointment in their own unique, incredibly dysfunctional way.

The problem with losing The Game, however, is that you can't just go to a batting cage the next day and smash some 40 mph lobs into the stratosphere to make yourself feel better. You've got to wait a whole three hundred and sixty-five damn days just for the chance not to be enormously pissed off for another three bills and change, and if you screw that up, then you wait another year and another maybe and holy shit is that gray hair? I've got a mortgage? Time is finite??!

Maybe it's the curse of being an Ohio State fan that this hurts so bad. If we had no expectations, if every season just kind of rolled into the next as one big beige pulpy tapestry, then whatever, right?

But that's not the case.

Ryan Day is, usually, a very good coach. Kyle McCord and Marvin Harrison, Jr. and TreVeyon Henderson and Jack Sawyer are all very good football players. But they weren't good enough on Saturday. Now some of them are going to have to wait 12 months to prove that they can be. And some aren't ever going to get that chance again.


Me, though? I just kind of want to move on, emotionally anyway. Ohio State lost to Michigan for the exact reasons why I thought Ohio State was going to lose to Michigan; the Wolverine defensive line made it impossible to establish any kind of consistent running game and Kyle McCord couldn't handle constant 3rd and longs. There are clear deficiencies at offensive line that have to be addressed, but more importantly Ohio State has to be able to be dynamic when it's called for situationally.

While it's true that McCord doesn't scare anybody because no one is afraid of what he'll do when a play breaks down, what's even more true is that no one is scared of what Ryan Day might dial up if his first approach isn't working.

Everything that Ohio State did tactically on Saturday was "fine," but the problem is that Sheronne Moore was better than fine. He took smart, calculated risks when it was clear that Michigan's base offensive gameplan wasn't working, and that made their base stuff work better because Knowles had to account for both that and whatever goofy crap the Wolverines had up their sleeves. Day didn't have that extra gear as a playcaller, and it showed.

Every part of Ohio State's game just seemed... off. A large part of that was due to Michigan's excellent defensive line, but it too often it feels like Ohio State under Ryan Day is missing an essential part of their football DNA.

And it's not toughness; it's leadership.


Ryan Day should not and will not be fired. But I think right now, more than anything, the onus is on him to field a team that shows the kind of fire in games that he keeps insisting they have the rest of the time. A big part of that is finding players who can inspire that in others.

bzzt bwop brft

As for Michigan, well, congrats to those dudes. Despite everything (every thing), it's a talented team with a tough-as-nails quarterback. But, like, watch out. Because the sign-stealing thing? You know, the extremely funny scandal that you're desperately hoping we'll all forget about in a week or two? That doesn't seem over quite yet. The NCAA is going to want to extract their pound of flesh, and with a concurrent FBI investigation ongoing, it is going to be extremely interesting to see how the next month or so plays out.

For now? The Threat Level is broken: a heap of K'Nex pieces, some chicken wire, and blinking lights. It's going to have to look different next season, because the Threat is different.

It's coming from inside the house, and until that's dealt with, it's going to be hard for Ohio State to take on anyone in Ann Arbor.

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