Eleven Warriors Roundtable: Ohio State Hopes for Chaos After Failing to Beat Michigan, Qualify for B1G Title Game

By Chris Lauderback on December 1, 2023 at 10:10 am
Ryan Day
Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch-USA TODAY NETWORK

In a perfect world, you'd be reading this week's roundtable as Ohio State gets set to bludgeon Iowa in the Big Ten championship game tomorrow. 

Instead, you're still likely all kinds of angsty and pissed off after the Buckeyes failed to get it done last weekend in Ann Arbor, ruining their shot at revenge and conference crown and likely doing the same to their College Football Playoff hopes. 

Like it or not, the season still moves forward and while Ohio State needs a minor miracle to gain a CFP nod, stranger things have happened. 

Here to discuss all the happenings from last weekend in Ann Arbor along with other topics, I welcome 11W's own Jason Priestas, Chase Brown and Garrick Hodge to this week's roundtable. 

The loss to Michigan was certainly a huge disappointment but to many, there wasn’t one magic bullet that caused the defeat. What position, facet, play or specific coaching decision was most culpable in your mind? Can that issue be fixed next year and if so, how would you like to see it addressed? 

Chase: I wrote about this in the Tuesday Skull Session this week, but I believe Kyle McCord's early interception and Ryan Day's decisions to both punt on 4th-and-2 at the Ohio State 46-yard line and bleed the clock to kick a 52-yard field goal before halftime are what will forever stand out to me about the 119 edition of The Game. With McCord in his 12th consecutive start (and 13th start overall) as a third-year signal-caller, an interception like the one he threw in the first quarter cannot happen. It just can't. As for Day's two special teams decisions, I still cannot wrap my head around them. I think, ultimately, those calls went down to Day not having trust in his offensive line and his quarterback to make plays when it mattered, and that's a shame. I'm sure all Ohio State fans hope he won't make those kinds of decisions in the future as the Buckeyes simply need to be more aggressive in what Day calls "the matchup games."

Jason: The roster composition is fine. The plays called in that game – for the most part – are fine. Day just went a little too conservative, and that's the difference. Sherrone Moore, on the other sideline, had a little bit of freedom. After all, he's not getting fired as interim coach, no matter how he called that game, but it did give him some freedom to let it rip. You saw it when they went for it (and got it) a few times on fourth down. You saw it when they dialed up the running back pass from Edwards. You saw it when they brought Orji in to change the temp of the game. Day needs to let it rip in these games. He needs to call them like he called the Georgia game. Have a wrinkle or two. Go for it when you might not otherwise. 

Garrick: I don't think there's any one particular person to blame for the loss, everyone deserves some in this one. But if you're making me pick one moment, that early INT from McCord cost OSU a touchdown, and in a one-score game, that's the dagger right there.

Ryan Day is certainly taking some heat after losing a third-straight game to Michigan. A subsection of the fanbase wants him fired based on his 1-3 record versus the Wolverines and a 1-6 mark against top-five teams even as Ohio State is a top-five program nationally and his overall record stands at 56-7. What’s your elevator speech for why he should remain Ohio State’s head coach?

Garrick: Mostly a be careful what you wish for warning. Every single program outside of Ohio State has had a down period within the last 20 years or so. Plus in the pro Ryan Day counter argument, I'd say Kirby Smart's biggest criticism early in his tenure was his hiring of assistants and his inability to beat his rival. He's fixed both, and now here they are. Day can do the same thing. 

Chase: I also wrote about this in the Tuesday Skull Session this week. I think people should read that, Chris. But, look, Ryan Day is a good football coach. He recruits with the best of them, and he coaches with the best of them. That's proven by Ohio State's perennial top-five classes and appearances either in the College Football Playoff or New Year's Six bowls. It really feels like, to me, that Day needs to be more fearless in some of the bigger games. The way I see it, that's the difference between him being good and great. Had he been more aggressive in The Game in 2022 (think: Ohio State's punt on 4th-and-short in the second half), the Buckeyes could have had a different outcome there. Had he been more aggressive in the Peach Bowl in 2022, the Buckeyes could have overcome Georgia and played for a national championship. Had he been more aggressive in The Game in 2023, the Buckeyes could have retaken control of the rivalry and secured their spot in the Big Ten championship and College Football Playoff. As Day moves forward and looks to evolve as Ohio State's head coach, he basically needs to unlock "Georgia Ryan Day" all the time. That's how I see it.

Jason: Many of these fans just spent the last five weeks saying 2021 and 2022 did not count because of the Stalions scandal, so they need to figure out whether Day is 1–1 vs. UM or if he's truly 1–3. Listen, it sucks losing to Michigan. It sucks even more to lose three in a row to them, but these are good Michigan teams. The last three UM teams are three of the four best Michigan teams of the last 25 years. Sometimes they will win this game. That makes the rivalry a real rivalry (Ohio State once had a rivalry with Illinois, but it got lopsided and is thus no longer a rivalry). Repeat after me: Ohio State is not a bad team for losing to Michigan. They're still a very good football team. That said, Day has a Michigan problem right now, and he has to figure it out. He's smart. He gives a damn. He'll figure it out.

We’ve seen the scenarios that must unfold for Ohio State to have any shot at a CFP bid. Do the Buckeyes have any realistic shot at all in your mind? Are the Buckeyes one of the four best teams in the country? Come Sunday, who will the four teams be to make up this year’s playoff bracket? 

Jason: A realistic shot? No. But they do have a shot, and I'll cheer for that shot to come through, just like I did last season. It will be a tough ask, though, because I think we see Georgia, Michigan, Florida State, and then Oregon (I'm such a Dan Lanning stan) as the four teams in the field. Next season cannot get here fast enough.

Garrick: Uh there's a chance but not a great one. Need wins from Georgia, Oklahoma State and Louisville. I'll go with a CFP of Georiga, Michigan, Oregon and Texas.

Chase: I think Ohio State has a shot to make the CFP in 2023, but I am not sure I would call it realistic. As it stands, the Buckeyes need Georgia, Washington, Oklahoma State and Louisville to win in their conference championships. Of those teams, only the Bulldogs are favorites to win their matchup, as the Huskies, Cowboys and Cardinals are all underdogs against Oregon, Texas and Florida State, respectively. So, yes, does Ohio State have a shot? Absolutely. And it would be a ton of fun watching the college football world explode if Ohio State did eventually make it. But as of now, I think the safest picks to make the CFP are Georgia, Michigan, Oregon and Florida State, with Texas on the outside looking in as a one-loss Big 12 champion.

I’ve seen a lot articles discussing how last weekend’s version of The Game will be the last on that level of meaning. One key factor rightfully cited is once the playoff field expands to 12 teams, the stakes won’t be as high. It’s also noted the team’s could rematch the following weekend in the B1G championship game. What’s your take on how B1G and CFP expansion impacts the rivalry? Will it be just as passionately contested even with the stakes decreased? Does possibly playing Michigan more than once in a season elevate the rivalry or impact it negatively?

Chase: The Game is The Game. I'm not concerned that a 12-team playoff or a potential rematch in the Big Ten Championship Game or CFP will ever diminish the battle between the Buckeyes and the Wolverines in the final regular-season game. There's too much tradition – and too much hatred – for outside circumstances to impact what has been engrained into the very identity of both states for the past 100+ years.

Jason: Change, right? It's the only constant. It will take some getting used to, but I know it won't be the worst thing in the world to play them two or even three times in one season. I don't hear Browns and Bengals fans upset that they have to play each other more than once in a season.  

Garrick: There will always be hate whenever Ohio State lines up against Michigan, even if it's 12 times a year.  But I just don't think future editions of the game will have quite as much venom as this one had from both sides in a long time barring like a national championship bout. 

We’ve seen the extended bowl practice time help take a player to the next level the following season or even give them a chance to take the step in the current season’s finale. Is there a player or two on your mind as most likely to make the most of the extra practice and maybe even game reps should Ohio State miss the CFP, as generally expected? 

Garrick: I think it would be great to get Jermaine Mathews Jr. more reps considering he's got an inside track to start at cornerback next year.

Chase: If Ohio State misses out on the CFP, I'm looking forward to seeing more of Carnell Tate and Brandon Inniss out of Brian Hartline's wide receiver room and seeing what they can do, a la the 2022 Rose Bowl, where Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka shined for the Buckeyes in Ohio State's win over Utah. I would also look forward to seeing more of Dallan Hayden, as he is just so much fun to watch. On defense, I think it's about time we see C.J. Hicks play an entire game (or at the least majority of the game) at linebacker and maybe we see more of Jermaine Mathews Jr. at cornerback. Maybe even some extended looks at Kenyatta Jackson and Caden Curry? I don't know. For as much as people would not be excited about Ohio State-Louisville in the Orange Bowl (including me), there would definitely be some players to watch in the matchup, as many of Ohio State's potential draft picks would likely skip out on the glorified exhibition game.

Jason: If Ohio State does end up in the Orange Bowl, we will see some opt-outs and quite a few of them. Marv absolutely will opt out, and maybe Emeka as well. If that's the case, what an opportunity for guys like Carnell Tate and Brandon Innis. This program has a bit of a legacy of young receivers stepping up late in the season, and it would not surprise me to see one or both of them make the same jump.

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