It's almost here. The Game.
And like last year, the 2022 showdown against Michigan comes with conference championship and CFP implications.
Unlike last year however, the matchup occurs in Columbus and Ohio State head coach Ryan Day is surely feeling even more pressure knowing a loss would drop him to 1-2 against Jim Harbaugh's program, in addition to costing him a Big Ten title and likely CFP bid.
As Day met with the assembled media yesterday at the WHAC, it's clear the magnitude of The Game isn't lost on the fourth-year head coach, even as he stood poised and relaxed at the podium.
When you lose this game, it's a tough year. There's no hiding from that.– Ryan Day
As a backdrop to everything riding on this game for the two programs and their two head coaches, Day continues to downplay the disparaging remarks after last year's game. Those included comments made by Michigan players and staffers about Ohio State's toughness and of course, Harbaugh's dig at Day, suggesting the Ohio State head coach woke up on third base and thought he hit a triple, implying because Day took over a healthy program from Urban Meyer, he's had it easy and isn't grounded to that fact.
There's always going to be back and forth and things said (in a rivalry game)... Sometimes it matters who says it too. We certainly don't get caught up in all that. – Ryan Day
To Day's credit, he has largely deflected questions about Harbaugh's comments, turning focus back to the game itself. He's added a subtle dig or two, implying Harbaugh's comments aren't worth his time but you can bet he wants nothing more than to kick the Michigan head coach's ass on Saturday. He won't say it's personal but how could it not be? Harbaugh made it personal by taking a purposeful shot at Day.
And make no mistake, it's personal for Day in another sense too. After the last two decades of general Ohio State dominance in The Game, Buckeye fans have become accustomed to success in late November. Should Ohio State falter on Saturday however, Day would drop to 1-2 versus Michigan, and by extension Harbaugh, and that would a tough pill for not just Day to swallow but the Buckeye universe at-large.
|HEAD COACH||W-L FIRST THREE SEASONS||CAREER W-L VERSUS MICHIGAN|
In fact, not since John Cooper began his OSU tenure with three-straight losses (1988-90) has an Ohio State coach not won at least two of his first three matchups with Michigan.
Before Cooper, you have to go all the way back to Woody Hayes in 1951-53 to find an OSU head coach that lost at least two of his first three against the Wolverines.
Of course while Cooper's first three Michigan games were a harbinger of things to come, Woody was able to rebound quite nicely, ultimately going 16-11-1 versus That Team Up North.
While a loss certainly wouldn't put Day on the hot seat in the eyes of athletic director Gene Smith, it would undoubtedly erode some level of goodwill and confidence within the fanbase, one that expects Ohio State to dominate Michigan as it has for the better part of the last 20 years.
The good news for Day comes as his Buckeyes play host to Michigan in Ohio Stadium, where the Buckeyes haven't lost to a Big Ten opponent since 2015. He also might be facing Michigan without its best player. And of course Day does have a damn good team ranked No. 2 in the nation with revenge on its mind.
Day may not say it postgame but you can bet he'll not only be happy for his players and coaches, assuming Ohio State advances to the winner's circle, but he'll also take a minute to enjoy the personal satisfaction of beating Harbaugh head-to-head to take a 2-1 lead in their matchup.