The Biggest Hurdles Standing in the Way of Ryan Day Winning a Big Ten Title in 2019

By David Regimbal on May 13, 2019 at 2:45 pm
Ryan Day

Ryan Day inherited a football program that has championship expectations, and he'll need to overcome more than the 12 teams on Ohio State's schedule to meet those standards this fall.

Even with the sudden retirement of future-hall-of-fame coach Urban Meyer and the departure of the most prolific passer in school and conference history, the Buckeyes are expected to once again contend for the Big Ten Championship, and by extension, a spot in the College Football Playoff.

Winning the Big Ten this fall would give Ohio State's its third consecutive conference crown and provide Day all the momentum he needs to start his head coaching career. 

Here are the biggest hurdles standing in his way.

The First-Time Jitters

It's hard to win the Big Ten as a first-time head coach.

In fact, dating back to when Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes owned the Big Ten in the 60s and 70s, only one rookie head coach has won the Big Ten. That was in 1990, when Gary Moeller led Michigan to a four-way share of the conference title.

Simply put, there aren't a lot of first-time head coaches who are put in a position to succeed or compete at this level. Ryan Day has a strong reputation and has earned the confidence of a lot of people inside and out of the program. But it's naive to think there won't be speed bumps along the way, particularly in his first season at the helm.

The Tough League Schedule

The scheduling gods weren't all that kind on Day and Ohio State.

The Buckeyes typically schedule one marquee non-conference matchup every year, and while Cincinnati might look like a pushover to the casual fan, Luke Fickell's squad is coming off a 11-win campaign and returns a lot of dangerous pieces.

But the real comes with a tough league slate. Ohio State drew a trio of tough non-divisional matchups. It'll face up-and-coming Nebraska and reigning Big Ten West champion Northwestern on the road, most likely in prime time, then it'll host Wisconsin the last week of October.

The final stretch will be the toughest, though. The Buckeyes end the season with back-to-back bangers by hosting Penn State and then traveling north for the annual showdown with Michigan.

The New Quarterback

The two prior challenges wouldn't be so daunting if Ohio State had continuity at the most important position in football, but that isn't a commodity Day has in his first season.

The Buckeyes will replace the quarterback who threw for nearly 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns with a true sophomore transfer from Georgia who's been a part of the program for four short months. 

Justin Fields is talented, there's no question about that. Rated a 5-star prospect and the top dual-threat quarterback in the class of 2018, he'll bring a level of playmaking ability that even Haskins didn't give the offense a season ago. But asking a new player to learn Day's sophisticated offense in one offseason (especially after uprooting his life to move nearly 600 miles north from home) is a tall order. 

View 49 Comments