Fortuna Files: Spotlight on Ryan Day and Ohio State ahead of trip to Notre Dame
Plus, Jeff Monken talks about Army's perfect game, and plenty of other observations and insights from Week 3.
Since he took over as Ohio State’s full-time head coach ahead of the 2019 season, Ryan Day has won 88.2 percent of his games, going 45-6. That winning percentage during Day’s tenure is second to only Kirby Smart, coach of the two-time defending national champion Georgia Bulldogs.
Day has, by any objective measure, been a smashing success, taking the Buckeyes to three College Football Playoff appearances and one national championship game. If there were any rookie mistakes as a first-time head coach, they weren’t evident to the outside eye; Ohio State ran the regular-season table, won the Big Ten and made the Playoff in each of Day’s first two seasons.
Then Day lost to Michigan in Year 3. And again in Year 4. Throw in the fact that the 2020 game was canceled because of the pandemic, and there ended up being a sizable contingent of three-and-out Buckeyes players who never went through the rite of passage of beating the Wolverines.
Day’s job has never been in trouble, despite the understandable frustrations of his fanbase. But he entered this season without a surefire first-round pick at quarterback in Justin Fields or C.J. Stroud. He entered it knowing that the man who hired him, Gene Smith, is retiring from his athletic director post in the spring. And he entered it knowing that this would be one of the toughest Ohio State schedules in recent memory.
If this is a prove-it year — comical as that may sound about a guy who has lost all of six games in his career — then the first test comes this week at Notre Dame, which for the first time in a long time will have the quarterback advantage when facing a program the caliber of Ohio State’s.
The second test comes next month at Wisconsin. And the final test, of course, comes a month after that at Michigan.
There are other challenging contests, to be sure. Playing Penn State next month will be no picnic. But that one is at home.
Notre Dame, Wisconsin and Michigan are all on the road. And each will, rightly or wrongly, serve as a referendum of sorts on just how cut out Day is for this job in the long-term, at least in the eyes of Buckeye Nation.
Notre Dame is coached by Marcus Freeman, who was an All-Big Ten linebacker during his playing days at Ohio State. Wisconsin is coached by Luke Fickell, who was an All-Big Ten nose guard during his playing days at Ohio State, and who coached Cincinnati to the Playoff in the same year that Day missed it at Ohio State in 2021.
And Michigan is Michigan, which needs no further explanation.