Ohio State’s Ryan Day may run out of grace after a second straight hit by Michigan

The clock has officially started ticking on Ryan’s Day. Warmth was just beginning to spread over his seat. That’s what happens at Ohio State when, just hours after they are on the brink of a potential Big Ten championship and berth in the College Football Playoff, fans and administrators see the Buckeyes’ No. in college football.

That’s what happens when Michigan’s No. 3 outpaces you at nearly every stage of the game while outrunning you badly in the process. The Buckeyes fell to the hated Team Up North 45-23, winning by a 20-17 halftime lead to lose The Game in Columbus, Ohio, for the first time since 2000.

While Day was selecting to throw on fourth and sixth in the extra zone, Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines accepted a challenge from the Buckeyes who dared them to throw the ball. By the time the dust settled, Michigan quarterback JJ McCarthy had thrown touchdown passes of 45, 69, and 75 yards. He edged out Heisman Trophy outfielder C.J. Stroud at Ohio State, and the Wolverines somehow outscored the Buckeyes 252-143 despite losing to Heisman rival running back Blake Corum.

It is the first time Ohio State has lost consecutive games to Michigan since the turn of the century (1999-2000). It is also the second consecutive season that the Buckeyes will not even play for a Big Ten title, let alone win it.

Ohio State has three primary goals: to beat Michigan, to win Big Ten honors and to compete for a national championship.

Now, Ohio State fans aren’t inconsequential. At least these rules are no more inconsequential than other fan bases that used to be successful. If the Buckeyes don’t win the national title in a given season, it might not be ideal, but it’s understandable as long as they keep up the other goals.

Today it does not achieve any of these goals anymore. With the recent loss to Michigan, he’s now 1-2 in his career against the Wolverines as coach of Ohio State and hasn’t won a Big Ten title since the 2020 COVID-19 season.

That’s why Day will enter the 2023 season with Pressure mounting. His seat may not be on fire, but no matter how you want to call it, Day will already be on the hot seat.

It seems crazy to think that a coach who’s 45-5 in four seasons could be in any trouble—and you’d be right to think that way—but that’s college football we’re talking about. It is not a sport known for using sound and reason logic.

College football is a sport that will give a coach longer after one good season only to see his tenure collapse into the next year with a huge acquisition that suddenly needs to be paid. It is a sport that will see a coach win a national title only to have the same coach flipped two years later if the right people decide they no longer believe in him.

Losing to Michigan by 15 points one season and 22 the next—when you entered every game with what were generally considered talented teams—is the kind of outcome that causes the right people to decide they no longer believe in you.

After last season’s losses to Oregon and Michigan, Day was an easy scapegoat. Defensive coordinator Kerry Combs paid for a game plan that was deemed too predictable and easy to exploit. He was fired, and Ohio State backed up a Brinks truck to pass Oklahoma State’s Jim Knowles. Knowles pitching a fresh defense has been great for most of the season despite questions in the secondary.

On Saturday, Michigan asked those questions again and again, as Penn State and Maryland did in previous weeks. Don’t expect Knowles to be a scapegoat like Combs. He greatly improved Ohio State’s defense across the board. Additionally, it wasn’t Knowles’ defense that held three points in the second half despite posting an offense full of future NFL first-round draft picks.

And in Ohio, there’s no offensive coordinator to take the fall for a day this time around.

That’s why Day will enter 2023 with the heat rising from his seat. His job may not be in jeopardy now, but Michigan’s third straight loss will surely be the Tiger’s.

The (next) game is 362 days away, and the clock is ticking.

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