Ryan Day, and Ryan Day Alone, Lost the OSU/Michigan Game Yesterday
Growing up in the John Cooper Era of Ohio State football, I learned that the way to beat Michigan, a rivalry game always played in the elements of late November, is to have the superior running game. Passing attacks are often neutralized in the cold. The Big 10 is not the SEC, where you can depend on (mostly) fair weather throughout the season.
As the snowflakes started to fall in Ann Arbor over the Thanksgiving Weekend, Quarterback C. J. Stroud was the obvious Ohio State star and he didn't disappoint come game time. He threw for nearly 400 yards, 2 touchdowns, and had ZERO turnovers. Then how in the hell did OSU lose by 15? Michigan had a vastly superior running game.
Uh, how did that happen? Let's look at recent history.
2006 Ohio State WON 42-39 Rushing Yards Winner: OSU
2007 Ohio State WON 14-3 Rushing Yards Winner: OSU
2008 Ohio State WON 42-7 Rushing Yards Winner: OSU
2009 Ohio State WON 21-10 Rushing Yards Winner: OSU (Terrelle Pryor threw for 67 yards)
2010 Ohio State WON 37-7 Rushing Yards Winner: OSU
2011 Michigan WON 40-34 Rushing Yards Winner: Michigan
2012 Ohio State WON 26-21 Rushing Yards Winner: OSU
2013 Ohio State WON 42-41 Rushing Yards Winner: OSU (OSU nearly 400 yards rushing)
2014 Ohio State WON 42-28 Rushing Yards Winner: OSU
2015 Ohio State WON 42-13 Rushing Yards Winner: OSU (JT Barrett passed for 113 yards)
2016 Ohio State WON 30-27 (2OT) Rushing Yards Winner: OSU
2017 Ohio State WON 31-20 Rushing Yards Winner: OSU (OSU completed 9 passes)
2018 Ohio State WON 62-39 Rushing Yards Winner: OSU
2019 Ohio State WON 56-27 Rushing Yards Winner: OSU
2020 Cancelled Game
2021 Michigan WON 42-27 Rushing Yards Winner: Michigan
There is a clear pattern above. A very clear pattern. In 2020, Ohio State had the 2nd (Trey Sermon) and 9th (Master Teague) leading rushers in the Big 10. Trey Sermon was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers and Master Teague....
Master Teague? Why didn't he play yesterday? Ohio State doesn't give an injury report, they simply list a player as unavailable and Teague was "unavailable." Teague has had average numbers this year on mostly limited carries. Ohio State's leading rusher in 2021? Freshman TreVeyon Henderson. Henderson pummeled Tulsa for nearly 300 yards, then fair to good numbers for the rest of the season. Second leading rusher? Freshman Miyan Williams. He has had a few nice games in spot duty. The best running back on the field yesterday was clearly and unequivocally Michigan's running back Hassan Haskins.
Also "unavailable" for the Ohio State Buckeyes was 6th year senior Demario McCall who lead the state of Ohio in high school rushing yards in....2014?
For a generation, Ohio State has churned out NFL caliber running backs. Ryan Day inherited JK Dobbins, who was drafted by the Ravens and the aformentioned Trey Sermon, who was a graduate transfer. If Master Teague has nagging injuries, that's one thing, if there's issues in the running backs room, Day's Ohio State teams will gravitate back to the pack. By the end of the year, Day should have identified who his go-to running back was going to be.
Or, maybe, hopefully, yesterday was a fluke and OSU will have three 100 yard rushers in Columbus for the next Michigan-Ohio State game in 2022 (Henderson, Williams, & Teague.)
Let's say this is the first of two or three losses in a row against Michigan for Ryan Day. If he's outgained on the ground against the Wolverines every year, while putting up 9-3 season records, look for Cincinnati's Coach Fickell to return to Ohio State as their next coach in 2024.
The 12-0 Bearcats have the 2nd leading rusher in the American Athletic Conference and the leading rushing quarterback in the AAC. They don't put up monster numbers, they protect the ball and grind out wins.
Really, if you have Top 20 recruiting classes, year in and year out, the equation for winning on the NCAA level is simple in the Buckeye's case.
p.s. I love Master Teague. I thought this was his year. I think it was suspicious that it wasn't. Because college athletes are still "kids," Ohio State doesn't have to tell you what's going on.
I am hoping Teague was simply a victim of nagging injuries.