Ryan Day Says Ohio State Must Play Its Best Game of the Season to Beat Clemson, Which He Doesn't Think Has Happened Yet

By Dan Hope on December 20, 2020 at 4:55 pm
Ryan Day

Ryan Day believes Ohio State is going to have to play better than it has so far this season if it’s going to beat Clemson in the College Football Playoff.

The second-ranked Tigers are the betting favorite for their matchup with the third-ranked Buckeyes, and they beat Ohio State in last year’s CFP semifinal. Day understands his 6-0 Buckeyes will be in their toughest test of the year when they play Clemson, which is 10-1, in the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1 (8:45 p.m., ESPN).

“This is one of the best teams in college football, and has been for a long time now,” Day said during an interview with Big Ten Network on Sunday afternoon.

In particular, Day knows Ohio State must be at its best to slow down the Clemson backfield combination of quarterback Trevor Lawrence (who had 259 passing yards and two passing touchdowns and 107 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown against Ohio State last year) and running back Travis Etienne (who had 36 rushing yards, 98 receiving yards and three total touchdowns last year against the Buckeyes). He also knows Brent Venables’ defense, which held Ohio State to a season-low 23 points last year, isn’t going to make things easy for the Buckeyes’ offense.

“Etienne and Lawrence are obviously two of the best in college football, and will probably go down in history as two of the best ever,” Day said. “And then defensively, Venables makes it hard. He’s always changing looks and doing things and gets you on your heels. And this team’s been there before. They’ve won a lot of games.”

Given that, Day believes his team will have to be at its best to have a chance to advance to this year’s national championship game. He doesn’t think the Buckeyes have played their best game yet this season, but he’s hopeful they can after two more weeks of practice.

“We’re gonna have to play our best game of the season, which I’m not sure if we’ve quite played yet,” Day said during an interview on ESPN. “There’s just been so many things and different disruptions that have happened for us this year, but we’re really hoping to get everybody healthy, and if we can get everybody in one piece here as we get into this game.”

Whether they actually will play their best football of the season against Clemson will come down to their preparation over the next two weeks, Day believes.

“We’ve gotta do a great job in preparation,” Day said. “Every day, our focus has to be on Clemson, and executing at the highest possible level we can. We know, because we were there last year, how much it hurts if you don’t execute. And the margin for error’s tiny when you play a team like Clemson. So we have to learn from what happened last year, and win all those 50/50 plays. We have to do a great job in all three phases. We gotta do a great job in the red zone, we gotta do a great job on third down, we gotta do all those things that matter in big games, and if we do, that’ll give us our best chance.”

While teams only have 13 days to prepare for this year’s playoff semifinals, a shorter timeframe than previous years due to the later end of the regular season, Day said that will be a similar timeframe to that which Ohio State had to prepare for Saturday’s Big Ten Championship Game after finding out the Michigan game would be canceled.

Day told BTN that the Buckeyes are “gonna take a couple days to catch our breath, practice a few more, take Christmas off and then get right into game week.”

Just as he said after Saturday’s game, Day is confident Ohio State is capable of beating Clemson – and any team in the country, for that matter – if it plays up to its ability.

“I think we have the potential to beat anybody in the country. One game, we can beat anybody,” Day said. “But we have to play well. We have to be able to practice as a team together, as a unit. And I think if we do, and we’re all together, and we’re detailed in our execution and we’re playing hard, then we can beat anybody in the country. And that’s just what it comes down to. People can talk and that’s fine. They can talk about who deserves to be in, who’s favored, all those things. What really matters at the end is how well we execute and how hard we play.

“If we do those things, if we execute at a high level and we play really, really hard, we’ll be in it in the fourth quarter, and then we go from there. Because we do have really good players in a lot of areas. And we do have one of the best quarterbacks in the country. He didn’t have his best game yesterday, but he’ll come back, he’ll play well. And then our defense has gotta do a great job of stopping the run and avoiding big plays. If we can do all those things, we’ll be right where we need to be.”

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