Ryan Day and CJ Stroud faced loud critics and doubts heading into the Peach Bowl. The Buckeyes’ performance in Atlanta answered them all but there’s still an area Ohio State has to get right heading into next season.
As the dust settles from a heart-wrenching Peach Bowl defeat, Ryan Day and the program will be evaluated. Ohio State doesn’t tolerate moral victories, but after that performance in Atlanta, it’s safe to say the Buckeyes are still equal to college football’s elite.
The three goals each season are to beat the rival, win the Big Ten, and win the National Championship. Though none of those goals were met, the Ohio State football team enters the offseason feeling strong. Two devastating losses to Michigan questioned the program’s identity, toughness, and ability to sustain an elite on-field product.
Was Ryan Day regressing the program? Is he the right coach for the job? Will Day ever beat Michigan again, or is he John Cooper 2.0? Buckeye fans are known to be irrational and hold extremely high standards. However, for a good reason, Ohio State is the second-winningest program in the sport. The standard is so high because of the sustainability within its storied history.
Outside of the coaching transition and lost year of 2011, when was the last time the Bucks finished a season under .500? The answer is 1988. For reference, Alabama and Michigan had four such seasons in that same span.
Ryan Day crafted a masterful game plan against the most vaunted defense in recent memory. The Buckeyes scored 41 points on Kirby Smart’s defense which had no answer for CJ Stroud and Marvin Harrison Jr on Saturday night. The Peach Bowl was a measuring stick for the program that lost its way over the last two years.
Day had the most energy he’d ever shown on the sideline — he had his team fired up, playing with an edge. CJ Stroud proved every doubter and critic wrong as he used his legs to extend plays and come up massive when needed most. His footwork in the pocket and willingness to shift or step up was a masterclass. It was the gutsiest performance of his career as he earned the respect of everyone. Stroud and Harrison Jr. were the two clear-cut best players on the field in Atlanta.
Whether or not the 2022 Buckeyes reached their fullest capabilities or will be remembered as a giant ball of potential energy, their performance in Atlanta was elite — at least offensively. If the Peach Bowl was, in fact, Stroud’s final game in the Scarlet and Gray, his legacy won’t be straightforward. He never beat his rival or won the Big Ten – however, his offensive unit wasn’t always the problem. Nonetheless, he left his heart on the field in Mercedes-Benz Stadium and solidified himself as the top quarterback in the country.
The schools seemed to have left their defenses on the bus in both semifinal games. Every team surrendered 40+ points in the College Football Playoff for the first time in its history. The matchups were wildly entertaining, but at the end of the day, Ohio State scored 41 on Georgia, which wasn’t enough. That shouldn’t be the case, ever.
The Silver Bullets played exceptional football in the third quarter and forced an early interception in the first half, which led to a touchdown and a 14-point lead. The Bulldogs closed the gap, but the Buckeyes regained the double-digit advantage heading into the fourth quarter. Albeit without Marvin Harrison Jr, TreVeyon Henderson, Miyan Williams, and Cade Stover — not to mention Jaxon Smith-Njigba.
The short-handed Buckeyes shouldn’t have needed to score again. Jim Knowles improved the overall defense from 59th to 15th this season. However, it was nonexistent in the fourth quarter of its two biggest games. Not to blame Knowles — his scheme is aggressive, and part of the problem is personnel — but for it to happen in back-to-back crucial moments is tough to swallow, especially by the offense.
Don’t be so quick to call for Knowles’ job — two full seasons of data will be adequate to evaluate his effect in Columbus. The defense improved this year but still has strides to make in the months ahead. Key returning starters, another year of experience, and maybe a transfer portal addition or two will serve Knowles’ unit well.
Ryan Day is Right for Job
Overall, Ryan Day is 45-6 as Ohio State’s head coach. He is the right man for the job, and that shouldn’t be a debate. Day has led the Buckeyes to two College Football Playoffs and a National Championship Game appearance. He’s won big games and dropped a few others. Regardless, this is his fourth season as a head coach — allow him time to grow.
The pressure and expectations in Columbus aren’t for everyone. Ryan Day is an elite head coach, play caller, and recruiter — he’s also a player’s coach. It’s unrealistic to beat your rival every year. But Day cannot continue to lose in the same manner. He will get it right, and his four-year sample size is evidence of that. Ohio State showed great fight in the Peach Bowl and responded in an elite way as an entire program.
The Buckeyes proved they belonged and were every bit as talented as Georgia, the current class of the sport. There is a great coaching staff for the Scarlet and Gray, and sure, nothing is perfect with kinks to work out. But Ohio State will be right back next year. Count on it.