COLUMBUS — Following Ohio State’s 37-3 win over Minnesota on Saturday, head coach Ryan Day wasn’t willing to share at what point his thoughts switched to the looming top-five matchup with Michigan.
Declining comment when asked the question, Day instead credited his team’s ability to remain focused on the task at hand in the home finale despite all the mounting pressure surrounding the 119th meeting of the storied rivals. Suffice it to say, though, that Day had already mentally moved on to the Wolverines well before the final seconds ticked off the scoreboard in Ohio Stadium.
A game-changing 14-point spurt just over a minute into the second half turned a 13-0 Ohio State advantage into a 27-0 blowout, and with select players being pulled from the game to preserve health, all eyes turned to Michigan week in Columbus.
Just as they did last season, the two teams will enter The Game with undefeated records and spots in the Big Ten Championship Game and College Football Playoff on the line. Add in all the peripheral noise with Michigan’s sign-stealing saga and the suspension of its head coach, Jim Harbaugh, and the 2023 edition of the rivalry figures to be one of the most anticipated games in its history.
However, despite the palpable hype surrounding the game, Day doesn’t want his team to approach the upcoming week differently than it has in the 11 games prior.
“I think the key is to stay in the moment,” he said on Saturday. “There’ll be emotion this week. There’ll be a lot this week. There’ll be noise and everything. What we have to do is do a great job of preparing. We can’t do anything different. We have to continue staying with our routine and then focus on maximizing every minute. Noon on Saturday is going to come. It’s not going to come any faster by us doing something different.”
Day added, “We’re all in this thing together. I love this team. We’ve been working hard to get to this point, and we need a great week of preparation and then get on the bus and head to Ann Arbor.”
Kyle McCord, who will get his first taste of the rivalry as a starter after watching the last two meetings from the sideline, said the Michigan game is something the team prepares for year-round. And with the way the past two games have played out, it’s been on the players’ minds “every day.”
“To be back in the same position we were last year with a chance to right the ship, I think everybody is definitely excited for it without a doubt,” he said. “To be 11-0 right now and exactly where we want to be, this is kind of the way everyone in the Woody (Hayes Athletic Center) envisioned the season going. To get to this point, that’s what you work for.”
Defensive end Jack Sawyer added, “They’re a great team with a lot of good players, so it’s going to be a fun game. Obviously, us and them have this game circled every year on the calendar. This is what we work for in the offseason, both of us. I’m just looking forward to going up there and playing our best game.”
At every turn, Day has said the goal for his team has been to be playing its best football leading into the final week of the regular season. Ohio State appears to be doing just that with a defense that has dominated on a weekly basis and an offense that is rounding into form now with its full complement of playmakers healthy and in the lineup.
Asked if he believes his offense has reached the level he’d hoped heading into Michigan week, Day expressed confidence but noted it’s nearly showtime regardless.
“We’re here now,” Day said. “Are there always things we want to get better at? Absolutely. But I think you’re seeing the identity we’re looking for. I think you’re seeing the run, you’re seeing the pass, you’re seeing the explosiveness, and that’s what we want. We’re 11 games in, and it’s time to go play.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.