Ryan Day Returns for Year Two Looking to Achieve What Only Jim Tressel and Paul Brown Have Done in a Second Season at the Helm in Columbus

By Chris Lauderback on July 23, 2020 at 11:05 am
Ryan Day is back for year No. 2 as Ohio State's head coach.
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Year One of the Ryan Day era saw the offensive guru from New Hampshire lead Ohio State to 13 straight wins before everything that could possibly go wrong did in a 29-23 loss to Clemson in a College Football Playoff semifinal. 

Despite the backbreaking loss to Dabo Swinney and company, Day's first year as Ohio State's permanent head coach has fans thinking a national championship is very much in play this season, provided the coronavirus pandemic allows for games to be played. 

Day's precision playcalling, ability to attract and retain top-flight assistant coaches and keep the recruiting momentum established during Urban Meyer's tenure is nothing short of phenomenal. 

But winning a national title is a chore that not only requires immense talent but also a dash of luck. Accomplishing the feat after just one season of head coaching experience at the FBS level adds another degree of difficulty seldom seen.

Don't tell that to Ohio State fans however, after most watched Jim Tressel turn the trick in his second season, guiding the 2002 Buckeyes to a national championship after an elite run at Youngstown State. 

In fact, Tressel's achievement is the gold standard Day's now chasing. Not to discount the legendary Paul Brown, who also did the deed at Ohio State in 1942, his second in Columbus, but football parity in 2002 was a different animal than 60 years prior. 

Dating back to Woody Hayes' tenure, during which college football entered what I would personally define as the modern era (though that's a debate in and of itself), the results of Ohio State head coaches in Year Two is a mixed bag. Here's the good, bad and the ugly of former Buckeye head coaches dating back to the Old Man himself. 


After Woody arrived in Columbus as a relative unknown and turned in a disappointing 4-3-2 record in 1951, he was determined to step it up in his second year at the helm. 

His first move was to install a Split-T formation to help an ailing offense. Unfortunately, close losses still plagued the campaign – all three defeats were one-possession outcomes. 

The season wasn't without success however as the Buckeyes beat No. 1 Wisconsin 23-14 in game three before finishing the slate with back-to-back 27-7 wins over Illinois and No. 12 Michigan. 

Woody's first win in The Game spoiled Michigan's Rose Bowl hopes and served as Ohio State's first in eight years versus the Wolverines. All credit to the Buckeyes but it's worth a note Bennie Oosterbaan's crew turned it over eight times. 

Freshman Hopalong Cassady gave a glimpse of big things to come as a backup halfback and two years later, he partnered with Hayes to deliver Ohio State's second national title and the first of five claimed during Woody's tenure. 


With a pretty stacked roster left behind by Woody's unplanned departure following the 1978 Gator Bowl, Bruce went 11-1 in his first season with the only blemish coming in the Rose Bowl as the top-ranked Buckeyes lost a 17-16 thriller to No. 3 USC. 

Year Two of the Bruce era had a different feel however with the Buckeyes going 9-3, the first of six straight 9-3 campaigns.

Bruce's squad went just 1-3 versus ranked opponents including a 9-3 (you can't make this stuff up) loss to No. 10 Michigan in the Shoe before a 31-19 loss to Penn State in the Fiesta Bowl. 

To be sure, it was a disappointing year for a team loaded with talent including Art Schlichter, Marcus Marek, Tim Spencer, Calvin Murray, Doug Donley, Gary Williams and Jerome Foster, to name a few. 


Poor Cooper inherited a roster full of "slow white guys" upon arrival in 1988, leading to a 4-6-1 mark in his first season. 

Looking to bring in some talent, Cooper's 1989 signing class ranked No. 6 nationally featuring names like Alonzo Spellman, Roger Harper, Steve Tovar, Raymont Harris, Chico Nelson and Jason Simmons. 

Unfortunately, it would take a few more recruiting wins before on-field victories followed. 

Coop's '89 Buckeyes did improve to 8-4 but beat just one team with a winning record and went 0-4 versus ranked teams including a 28-18 loss to Michigan in Ann Arbor and a 31-14 defeat at the hands of Auburn in the Hall of Fame Bowl. Weirdly, things were going great down in Tampa until Zack Dumas blasted Auburn's Stacey Danley into the fifth dimension on a 3rd-and-4 play. Leading 14-3 at the time, Ohio State was outscored 28-0 the rest of the game. 


Many fans weren't quite sure what to make of Jim Tressel's hire after Andy Geiger supposedly had Jon Gruden on his candidate list along with Oregon's Mike Bellotti and former Buckeye and current Minnesota head coach Glen Mason, among others. 

While Tressel was an Ohio guy, his success at Youngstown State didn't wow everyone but once the man got in front of the microphone, the rest of the fans started to come around. 

Year One produced a modest 7-5 season but, as promised, it included a win over No. 10 Michigan in the Big House. 

Looking to make a splash on the recruiting trail heading into the 2002 season, Tressel did exactly that, compiling the nation's No. 4 ranked haul led by Maurice Clarett, Troy Smith, Santonio Holmes, A.J. Hawk, Bobby Carpenter, Justin Zwick and Quinn Pitcock. 

Clarett would obviously go on to star as a true freshman that fall while the Buckeyes beat five ranked teams and won seven games by seven points or less. 

A 14-9 win over Michigan in the Shoe sent Ohio State to the BCS national title game in Tempe and the Buckeyes responded with an upset for the ages, permanently breaking the Miami Hurricanes with an improbable 31-24 double-overtime win in the Fiesta Bowl. 

The high-wire act of a season saw the Buckeyes post an unprecedented 14 wins on the way to natty and Tressel captured multiple national coach of the year awards. 


After going a perfect 12-0 but ineligible for postseason play in 2012, expectations could not have been higher for Year Two of the Meyer era. 

Those expectations reached a fever pitch not even three months after the 2012 season came to a close as Meyer's February 2013 signing class ranked No. 2 in the nation thanks to commitments from Joey Bosa, Vonn Bell, Ezekiel Elliott, Eli Apple, J.T. Barrett, Gareon Conley, Billy Price, Tyquan Lewis and Darron Lee. Lol. I think that's most of the big ones. Good Lord. 

Meyer's squad won its first 12 games of the 2013 slate, including a 42-41 decision over Michigan but the wheels came off in the postseason. 

The Buckeyes fell 34-24 to Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game before losing a 40-35 thriller to Clemson in the Orange Bowl. 

With Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde in the backfield and stout line, the offense averaged over 45 points per game but the defense was inconsistent at best, ranking No. 47 in total defense and No. 28 in scoring defense, giving up over 22 points per game. 

Meyer would make some changes on defense during the offseason and a natty followed in 2014, taking the sting away from 2013's poor finish. 

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