There is, in all likelihood, no football program in the country that gets as much scrutiny as The Ohio State Buckeyes led by Ryan Day. For the first time since 2013-2014, the Buckeyes have lost two games in a row. They've also lost to their most bitter rival, Michigan, two consecutive years for the first time since the 2000 season. With the 2023-2024 season fast approaching, the devastated Buckeye faithful are looking for answers, and Ryan Day is looking to silence his doubters.
Ohio State has an interesting schedule where only two to four teams may be able to best them. Rivals Michigan and Penn State are talented enough to go toe to toe with the Buckeyes regardless of when or where the matchups occur. Notre Dame and Wisconsin pose an upset threat as they are set to host the Bucks this year. Typically, when Ohio State is the odds-on favorite, they get caught napping, and programs like Maryland and Minnesota will be looking to do just that; being home should save Ohio State from any trap situations.
Ohio State's offense has evolved over the past twenty years into a juggernaut, consistently producing first-round talent, Heisman candidates, and unbelievable statistics. Even with such great ability, Ryan Day still looks to improve. Frustrated with the offensive output throughout last season and what appeared to be mistakes stemming from hesitation, coach Day announced that Brian Hartline (wide receiver position coach) would be promoted to offensive coordinator and assume at least some play-calling responsibilities. If Hartline is as bold at play-calling as he is with recruiting, Ohio State fans will be in for quite the show.
As of 8/29/23, the quarterback controversy has been declared over, not a moment too soon. Columbus has become the hotbed of talent-laden quarterbacks in the country, and Ryan Day has taken the time to procure some of the best recruits, almost immediately turning them into household names and first-round draft darlings. However, 2023 may be the first blemish to Day's excellent QB resume, as Kyle McCord struggled most of the off-season to pull away from Devin Brown. Fans and doubters alike question Day and McCord as it is well documented that the coach "hand-picked" Kyle over J.J. McCarthy (starting quarterback at Michigan).
As for the rest of the offense, the receiving corps, running backs, and offensive line must work tirelessly to ensure McCord's success. Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka lead the talented skill players, and all signs point to a very productive year. The running backs must stay healthy to create a consistent, dominant ground game. Miyan Williams will lead the charge while TreVeyon Henderson returns healthy.
Jim Knowles enters his second season at the helm of the Buckeyes' defense, and with this season comes a great deal of pressure to ensure they don't have a repeat of last year's troubles. Knowles understands how to build a great defense as he simplifies the mechanics and responsibilities of each position group. He also knows that Ohio State shouldn't have any problems returning to the playoffs if the defense is in the top ten. However, their reputation as the "silver bullets" has been tarnished by uneven performances, nearly fading into oblivion against Michigan last season.
Everyone seems ready to doubt the Buckeyes and, even more so, Ryan Day. The uncertainty has been creeping in, and now, as the 2023-2024 season approaches, the faithful Buckeye fans are clamoring for another title; anything else appears to be a lost season. No coach in Ohio State history has amassed a better first four seasons except for Urban Meyer. Everyone should be put on notice as the last time Ohio State lost two games in a row to Michigan or lost two consecutive games in a season, they responded by winning the national championship.
Cover Image courtesy of Getty Images