With his team coming off its second bye and entering the final month of the regular season, Ohio State head football coach Ryan Day met with the media Tuesday to preview the Buckeyes’ upcoming game against Maryland.
Day was reminded of last year’s game against the Terrapins in which Ohio State was pushed to the brink, needing a stop on a Maryland two-point conversion attempt to secure the win. In that game, Ohio State gave up 51 points and over 300 yards rushing, 298 of which came from one player in running back Anthony McFarland.
With the players on last year’s defense largely making up this current unit, Day was asked what has led to such a drastic turnaround.
“I think there are a lot of things,” he said. “In terms of maturity, these guys are all a year older. The scheme has changed, the offenses we see are different. This team is hungry, and I think they all really enjoy playing with each other. I think it’s a conversation that would take more than one answer on why, to this point, they’ve played at this level.”
Day added of his defense, “They have to bring it every week. It’s only as good as you’ve played the last week. The challenge is going to continue, and every team that comes out there is going to want to score points and prove they can move the ball against our defense.”
Of Maryland, Day called them “dangerous,” adding they have athletes who will be well-coached and will be playing in quality schemes. On defense, he said Maryland will show a combination of three and four down linemen, and he feels that unit is coming off one of its better performances last week against Michigan.
“They were running around, playing really hard, even when they got down a couple of scores,” Day said, adding they have good players who are getting better as the season progresses.
One of those players Day’s offense will face is starting linebacker Keandre Jones, who transferred to Maryland from Ohio State ahead of this season. Day said of Jones, “Great to see him playing with a lot of passion, effort. (I have) nothing but respect for him and his family. He got an opportunity to go closer to home. We supported that the best we could. Certainly didn’t want to see him leave, but we also understand. Glad that things are working out for him.”
As for the first College Football Playoff rankings, which were announced Tuesday evening, Day showed no interest in discussing the rankings as they stand in early November.
“I think it’s for the fans,” Day said of the rankings. “It doesn’t mean anything to us, because if we lose this weekend, we’re not going to be in the top four, that’s for sure. What matters is where we’re at once we’re done with the regular season.”
Day’s continued insistence on staying focused on the immediate task — that week’s opponent — has been reciprocated by his players, which has as much to do with their complete dominance through eight games as does their talent. Day said continued buy-in on the process that has kept them unbeaten will be critical over the final month.
“I think that, at this time of the season, you’re into November and crazy things can happen,” he said. “So, we have to continue to stay focused on the things that got us to this point. The discipline, the toughness, taking care of the football, tackling … We just can’t get bored with that. We have to continue to embrace that and understand how important that is. That’s a huge part of being tough — being disciplined enough to do the same things week in and week out and not stray from that.”
When asked about the “big games” remaining on the schedule — Penn State and Michigan — and how he plans to keep his team focused on the task at hand as 44-point favorites over Maryland and even larger favorites over Rutgers next week, Day said every remaining game is big when in the position Ohio State finds itself in.
“If you don’t think they’re all big, try losing one and see how that goes,” Day said. “We have to stay locked in on today’s practice, we have to stay locked in on this week, and then we go from there.”