The college football season is so close to us now that we can hear the echoes of TBDBITL and smell the hot dogs at Ohio Stadium. There are still 30-plus days to go but with the passing of the recent Big Ten Media Days and the start of fall practice just days away, it is finally time to say that football is (nearly) here.
On the surface, the 2021 season was a strong one with a Rose Bowl win, a Heisman finalist and two players selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. But things just cut different at Ohio State, none of the ‘goals’ for the start of the season were hit and around the WHAC, 2021 was a season long on promise that came up just short on results.
“Maybe at some places 11-2 with a Rose Bowl victory is a good year,” Day said on Wednesday at Big Ten Media Days. “It isn’t at Ohio State. Our three goals are beat the team up north, win the Big Ten Championship, win the National Championship. That’s our goals, and those things didn’t happen last year.”
We all saw it early on last year with the Oregon game, there just was something not quite there. But the Buckeyes pressed on and put-up historic numbers on offense and carried the defense much of the year until a game where the offense bogged down and the defense couldn’t answer the bell. The worst part of it all is who was lining up on the other side of the field when everything came crashing down. And it set up a long offseason in Columbus.
“Every year, we have the same expectation,” Day said. “The first goal is to beat The Team Up North in the rivalry game, and that didn’t happen. We had to sit on that for a calendar year. And that’s not good.”
It has been well-documented that changes were made in the offseason with the hiring of Jim Knowles, the new “head coach of the defense” and the goals start all over again. First you must beat Michigan, then you are expected to win the Big Ten Championship and finally win the National Championship.
Another difference between last year’s team and this year’s is going to be the level of game experience that players will have. TreVeyon Henderson was fresh out of high school, CJ Stroud had never attempted a collegiate pass before last season, Jaxon Smith-Njigba had seen some action but not an extended run like he saw in 2021. Defensively you will have players who will bring much more experience into the new season like JT Tuimoloau, Jack Sawyer and even players like Steele Chambers and Denzel Burke.
“When you think about those first few games last year, we had a lot of young guys, and now we’ve gone through a whole season and off-season together, I think our guys are a little scarred, they’re a little calloused,” Day said. “They know what it’s like to lose a game, and that’s not fun.”
Losing a game at Ohio State is not a common occurrence. 2012 is the last time that Ohio State ran a full season without dropping a game, but that year did not have a postseason. You have to go back 10 years prior to that to 2002 for the last time that the Buckeyes ran the table and ended the year hoisting the hardware. 2002, 2012 and this year is 2022… could we be on to something?
It all starts with an opener against Notre Dame and the regular season ends the way that it normally does, against Michigan. The focus is to remember what it felt like losing that game without letting it become a distraction.
“We have to move forward, we can’t let that again beat us twice,” Day said. “It’s something that we never want have to go through again.”
The season kicks off on September 3rd against the Fighting Irish in a night game at Ohio Stadium and carries on from there.