INDIANAPOLIS – The teams have arrived in Indianapolis and the Big Ten Championship Game is just one day away.
For the final time before Saturday night's game between the Buckeyes and Badgers, Ohio State coach Ryan Day and Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst met with the media on Friday afternoon to answer questions about their teams' regular seasons and their preparations for the matchup.
Bullet-point recaps of what both coaches had to say are below.
- “So far, it's been great, the hospitality here in Indianapolis.”
- Day said Justin Fields has "done a great job this week preparing" and the training staff has done a great job getting him ready to play with his sprained MCL. "He's had a good, strong week of practice." Day said Justin Fields' sprained MCL is a very different situation than when J.T. Barrett suffered a knee injury at Michigan and had to have a procedure done before the 2017 Big Ten Championship Game. Buckeyes feel great about how Fields is doing going into tomorrow's game.
- "At a game like this, there's a lot of hype, there's a lot of hoopla," but at the end of the day, it's about execution.
- Jonathon Cooper is traveling with the team but since he is redshirting, he will not dress for any further games this season unless he changes his mind and makes a strong case that he should play.
- Day said Garrett Wilson will continue to be Ohio State's punt returner tomorrow night despite his muffed punts against Rutgers and Michigan. "We believe in him. We trust in him. We believe he has the ability to be an elite returner." Day said Wilson has "been practicing much better" than he was earlier in the year.
- On Wilson's performance against Michigan: "It was good to see a young guy step up in that moment," but has to put that behind him now and try to have another big game on Saturday.
- Day said the biggest thing he has proud of with Justin Fields and Chase Young has been the leadership they have brought to the team.
- On co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, Day said Mattison has brought tremendous leadership on that side of the ball and has helped the team develop great chemistry. "That whole staff and the way that they've built chemistry has been really good."
- On the importance of Shaun Wade returning to the defense: "Shaun has got a lot of experience, he's played a lot of football and he's good in both the run and the pass game." He said Wade had a good week of practice after missing last week's game due to injury. He said they held Wade out because he wasn't 100 percent, and they didn't want to do that to him and put him in a bad position.
- On J.K. Dobbins: "He's run with an edge. He's run with a chip on his shoulder all season ... The big thing for him is just taking care of that ball," which he said has been a big point of emphasis for Dobbins and the Buckeyes going into this week's game.
- Day believes the two bye weeks and being able to take their starters out of games early has helped keep them healthy. The Buckeyes don't have any regular contributors unavailable for this week's game.
- Day said if he was in Dobbins' shoes and didn't win Big Ten Running Back of the Year, he'd ask, "What else do I need to do?" Day said he believes Dobbins is the best running back in the country and it bothers him that Dobbins doesn't always get the recognition he deserves.
- Day said he believes the entire team is driven by team goals, not individual statistics.
- Day said K.J. Hill has been "the guy" for the Buckeyes at H-back this year and has done a great job for them.
- On senior wide receivers K.J. Hill, Austin Mack and Binjimen Victor: "The guys who left last year left a legacy behind. Now K.J., Austin and Ben have a chance to leave a legacy behind, because we've still got a lot of football left to play."
- On running against Wisconsin's defensive front: "It's a big challenge," but he thinks Ohio State's offense is ready for that challenge.
- Day still doesn't believe Ohio State has reached its ceiling: "I still don't think we've played our best football yet ... We have yet to put together just a dominant performance in all three phases."
- Day pointed out that the plays on which Justin Fields has gotten banged up on this year have been passing plays, not running plays, so he doesn't want to be overly cautious or hesitant with him.
- On Fields: "I think his family’s done a tremendous job of grounding him. He has a tremendous approach and he’s humble. But deep inside, there’s a fiery, competitive dude in there who just tries to take your heart out when he’s in the game ... he's very, very competitive."
- He says in his first Big Ten championship, he played Michigan State twice in a season. Says there are "certainly some things to be taken from them" but it's not a replay of the first game.
- "Our fans mean everything to us, and I bet you every coach would say that. You appreciate the loyalty, you appreciate the support you get form them. I think it's real for them."
- On facing Minnesota at the end of the regular season: "Before the season, certainly those are motivations, those are goal." He says they took a week-by-week approach.
- "I'm looking forward to them having this opportunity for our players to play in this championship."
- He says all of the focus at Wisconsin has been on itself, not Ohio State's dominance in the past few years.
- Chryst says Wisconsin has "great" leadership" and the team has taken on the leaders' personality.
- On developing players: "I think that's one of the fun parts of the job." He says he's been impressed and appreciates what Graham Mertz has done this season as backup quarterback. "When he did play, we felt confident, and should that come up again, we'll feel confident."
- On Greg Mattison: "Greg is a guy that I've been fortunate to know. Really, my whole family knows him. Utmost respect for him as a coach and, probably more importantly, as a person."
- His approach for recruiting Ohio: "The players we've gotten, many of them have had a big impact on our team."
- Chryst, when asked by a kid in the Junior Journalists program for his plan to beat the No. 1 team in the country and Chase Young: "Those are hard questions."
- On the Buckeyes' defense: "I think what's impressive about their defense is, on, they've obviously got very talented players, but they're playing all together." He says Ohio State does a good job making quick adjustments. "When I talk about being well coached, you see a group that looks like it knows exactly what it's doing."
- He says that it's impossible to focus on stopping any one Ohio State player.
- On being a three-time Big Ten champion: "I think it's really hard to do it once." He continues: "They don't just hand this out. You're got to earn it."
- On Ryan Day's performance this year: "It's impressive, and it's not easy to do."