Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Michael Chen

The day after: Thoughts on Ohio State football following it’s third straight loss in ‘The Game’

The pain for the Ohio State football program and its fans will continue for at least another season after falling to Michigan in Ann Arbor on Saturday afternoon, 30-24.

For the third straight year, the Buckeyes won’t play for a Big Ten title, and instead will have to watch their bitter rival with a chance to be crowned. The loss essentially puts Ohio State on the outside looking in for a College Football Playoff spot.

There were so many thoughts that have permeated in my mind since the final whistle blew — some of the irrational, some of them with clear thought. Let’s start off with why this loss still stings.

This Ohio State loss hurts more than most


It’s not just a loss to Michigan that hurts, it does, it’s the nature of the loss. The Wolverines didn’t have Jim Harbaugh on the sidelines, they have been battling the conference and NCAA with the sign stealing allegations. The distractions were there for them not to focus on “The Game.” Everything was pointing to the Buckeyes to right the ship, but once again they capsized. We all hate losing to our rivals, this one feels like a missed opportunity to reclaim the conference.

Ryan Day’s future


It seems like a broken record for the last three years. This team will play tougher, make the plays necessary to defeat Michigan and win the Big Ten. Well, here we are, losing to the Wolverines, not playing for a conference title and having to endure another year of torture. In no way do I think Day is on the hot seat, but it sure is warm. Not sure if a loss next year I’ll be thinking the same. This loss was a bit different than the previous two, but it’s still a loss that stings.

Ryan Day’s refusal to be aggressive


Michigan went 3for 3 on fourth down conversions and Day opted to not even give his team a shot to convert one. There were chances, the third drive of the game and the final one of the half stick out the most. You don’t win this game by playing conservative, which is exactly what Day did. No trick plays, broken tendencies, nothing specifically designed to confuse Michigan. The Wolverines sure had a different plan for us, why didn’t we do the same?

Ohio State’s team mentality


I said it in my 5-stars, Michigan’s team mentality is so much better than Ohio State’s. It’s a massive part of their success over the past three seasons, they will themselves to win, while the Buckeyes think that it is going to be given to them. It seemingly changed, but not really, which showed on Saturday. They responded when their best offensive linemen went down with an injury, the Buckeyes didn’t. The idea that Ohio State is soft will continue, and it’s rightly justified.

Kyle McCord’s performance


In the biggest game of his career, McCord played one of his worst. You can’t wait to get into a groove against a top-three opponent, which is what McCord did. The first three drives the Buckeyes went three-and-out, a 5-play drive that spanned 22 yards, and then a costly pick that Michigan cashed in for a touchdown four plays later. McCord had a chance for redemption in the final drive but threw another pick.

The hot and cold nature of his game was on full display, unfortunately it was more cold on Saturday. It’s going to be an interesting offseason to see if Day looks to the portal for another option or continues to trot McCord who is still working through consistency.

Ohio State needed to play a clean game …


But didn’t. Every year, the team that wins the turnover battle, most likely wins “The Game.” Ohio State lost this, and it was an area that I believed was a key to a victory earlier in the week. The Wolverines were one of the best teams in the country in turnover margin, while the Buckeyes were average at best. This proved to be a huge part of the game, with Ohio State turning it over twice, while Michigan didn’t. Wolverine quarterback JJ McCarthy didn’t do anything special, but what he did do was play turnover free. It was a massive difference in this game.

Referee’s were terrible


I am not blaming the loss on the zebras, but they certainly didn’t help Ohio State’s cause. The spot for Xavier Johnson on the Buckeyes second drive wasn’t close to where he was down. They gave McCarthy a first down when he clearly wasn’t past the maker. A catch by Roman Wilson where he wasn’t close to being inbounds, was called one. Yes, the last two were reversed, but those should have never happened. The biggest blunder was the “touchdown” Wilson scored, where it sure looked like he didn’t have complete control and Denzel Burke took it away. All you ask for is impartial calling of plays, and that was not the case Saturday.

Parker Fleming needs to go


I’m not going to fault Jayden Fielding for his missed field goal at the end of the half, to me that’s on Day for not being aggressive enough. Punter Jesse Mirco had one of his worst performances, averaging just 36.7 yards on three attempts. That’s not flipping the field by any means. No yardage on punt returns, barely anything on kickoffs. Getting a punt downed inside the two by letting the ball bounce is all on coaching. In a year of mistakes from this unit, it wasn’t surprising to see another game with more of them.

Ohio State’s inability to finish defensive drives in the second half


Although it seemed like the Buckeye defense made improvements, its weaknesses showed once again in “The Game.” Four Michigan drives in the second half, not including the final kneel down, resulted in points. The Buckeye defense just could not get off the field, which in turn made it much more inefficient as the game continued. The offense didn’t help the cause either, the three and out after Michigan broke the 17-17 tie hurt. The exact same issues that haunted the Buckeyes the last two years reared their ugly heads again, just this time without the big play taking center state.

Ohio State’s linebackers got abused again


It was clear that Michigan found an advantage in targeting the Buckeye linebackers, who are much better at stopping the run than playing the pass. The Wolverine tight ends caught 7 passes for 113 yards, which confirmed the game plan. The lack of athleticism from this Buckeye group was exposed, and this starts with recruiting, where they have had multiple misses to improve the roster over the past few cycles. I’d make an offseason move to switch Sonny Styles to linebacker, and immediately insert C.J. Hicks as the other starter. This unit has been picked on and it needs to stop.

Another Ohio State offseason full of questions


Most likely Marvin Harrison Jr., Emeka Egbuka, TreVeyon Henderson, J.T. Tuimoloua, Denzel Burke, and Jack Sawyer are off to the NFL. Those are just the underclassmen, not counting the players that have exhausted their eligibility. That’s not even mentioning players who could transfer, leaving plenty of holes for the Buckeyes. Yes, this is one of the few programs that reloads instead of rebuilding, but next year’s team might be even more vulnerable than this year. Day exceeded expectations, many believed a three-loss season was in store, but with a much deeper Big Ten going forward, this team could struggle next season. (I hope I’m dead wrong.)

Contact/Follow @BuckeyesWire on X (formerly Twitter), and like our page on Facebook to follow ongoing coverage of Ohio State news, notes, and opinion. Follow Michael Chen on X.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.