From the outside looking in, there hasn’t been a lot to critique about Ohio State’s last three games.
The Buckeyes have won their last three games by an average of 46.67 points, most recently on Saturday with a 66-17 win over Maryland. Excluding the final drives of the first half on which they ran out the clock, Ohio State’s offense scored on all 15 of its possessions when C.J. Stroud was in the game in its last two contests against Rutgers and Maryland; Ohio State’s defense, meanwhile, has held each of its last three opponents to 17 points or fewer and under 350 yards.
After a slow start to the season that included a 35-28 loss to Oregon in the second game of the year, the Buckeyes have found their stride and are playing like they’re one of the best teams in college football. But Ryan Day certainly doesn’t want his team to get complacent now.
“Confidence is so important in this game, and we’re building that,” Day said Monday on the Ohio State Sports Network’s Buckeye Roundtable show. “But still a lot of football ahead of us, and we haven’t done anything yet.”
Even though Ohio State was dominant against the Terrapins on Saturday, Day said the Buckeyes still found plenty of things that they could improve upon after watching the game film.
“There was plenty of things to critique, I can tell you that right now,” Day said. “And we’re all over that. Certainly we did do some things. We’re growing. But there’s a lot of things to keep working on, and this bye week’s gonna allow us an opportunity to kind of reflect back on these first six weeks, but also look ahead, because we’ve got some big conference games and some big challenges ahead.”
While Ohio State is now 5-1 and ranked sixth in the country, the Buckeyes will have plenty of tougher tests on their schedule than Akron, Rutgers and Maryland, the teams they’ve beat up on for the past three weeks. Ohio State’s schedule for the second half of the regular season includes three teams currently ranked in the top 10 in both major polls – Penn State, Michigan State and Michigan – and winning the Big Ten championship would likely also require beating Iowa, who’s currently the No. 2 team in the country.
Day knows that beating any of those teams isn’t likely to come nearly as easily as the last few wins have come.
“As we get into some of these games here in the second half of the year in the conference, it’s gonna be a little bit more contested,” Day said. “We’re gonna have to earn everything from here on out. And in order for us to get where we need to get, our veteran and good players gotta play that way.”
That said, Day believes the Buckeyes’ success down the stretch won’t be based on who they play but whether the Buckeyes play their best football.
“We have some really good teams in this league and they’re really good, but at the end of the day, it’s always been about us and how well we prepare and how much better we get fundamentally and whether we take care of the football and execute at a high level,” Day said. “When we do that, we’ve got a pretty good record. So whether it was back after the Oregon game or all the way to the end of the season, it’s always gonna be about us and how well we play as a team. But certainly some big games coming up, which is exciting.”
Ohio State enters the second half of the season with a wave of momentum thanks to its recent results, but now faces the challenge of keeping that momentum going during a bye week. Day says the Buckeyes will stick to their normal practice schedule over the next three days as they look to keep that going, but will then give their players the weekend off to rest and recover before they begin their seventh game week of the season next week, when they will start their second half of the season by playing Indiana on the road.
“We’re gonna go (Tuesday), Wednesday and Thursday and try to keep at least the practice days and times the same as we’ve been, because I feel like we’ve gotten into a pretty good rhythm,” Day said. “But then we will give them the weekend off and get back to work on Monday. So some real good hard work on fundamentals in the midweek, but then also let them heal up and get their legs back underneath them.”