COLUMBUS — While so much attention is already being paid to Ohio State’s showdown with archrival Michigan next week, one more test still remains for head coach Ryan Day and the Buckeyes in order for that game to hold up to its hype. On Tuesday, Day met with the media to preview Saturday’s contest at Maryland in what will be Ohio State’s final road contest of the season.
Ohio State enters the game as a massive 28-point favorite as Maryland has dropped its last two games by a combined score of 53-10. Those recent struggles have likely done Day no favors in trying to keep his team focused on the moment and not on what’s ahead, a matter he was asked about on several occasions on Tuesday.
“I think it’s something that comes up every week, and it comes up every year this time of year,” Day said of remaining focused. “So, what we try to do … the competitive excellence focus is something that we talked about early on so that when we got to a moment like this, you don’t just walk into a Tuesday meeting and say, ‘Ok, guys, we have to really focus on this week.’”
One thing Day has working in his favor, however, is the heavy expectations players and coaches at Ohio State face every season to win every game en route to a national championship. He likened those expectations to the NCAA basketball tournament format of winning or going home, saying that March Madness begins for his team on the first week of the season.
“You just have to embrace that and understand what it means to bring it every week,” he said.
Day added, “We have an opportunity to go 11-0 this weekend and still not have reached one of our goals yet. That’s just sobering, but it’s the facts. And we know that. It’s part of that building process, week in and week out, to be playing our best football in November. That’s what we focus on.”
Although Maryland may be a wounded team entering the penultimate week of the regular season, it has shown how capable it can be in playing with the Big Ten’s elite teams. In its conference opener at Michigan, Maryland trailed by just five points with less than 10 minutes remaining before ultimately falling, 34-27.
And if Day needs any further ammunition to load up for his team to keep its collective mind right, he can simply show them the results from the last time Ohio State went to Maryland a week prior to playing Michigan.
“We’ve been in battles with these guys before,” Day said. “We’ve been in this same situation in 2018, and that game went into overtime. (Head coach) Mike (Locksley) does a really good job, and we’re going to have to play well.”
Of course, Day didn’t shy away from the amount of work that is spent on preparing for Michigan daily. It’s a game every head coach at Ohio State must embrace all year, a fact Day understands well. But given that Ohio State lives the rivalry every day, as Day has said often during his tenure, he doesn’t expect this week’s preparation to change or potentially suffer in any way.
“We’re working the game at the end of the year every day out of the year, so that’s not something that is out of the ordinary, to know that it’s always in the back of our minds,” he said. “But that’s like that every week, so our focus right now is on Maryland, going down there at 3:30 p.m. and playing really good football and then go on from there.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.