Post-rival game letdown is a worry for Ohio State coach Ryan Day

Bill Rabinowitz
Wisconsin tight end Jake Ferguson makes a snow angel after the Badgers’ 38-17 win at Minnesota on Saturday that clinched a spot in this week’s Big Ten championship game. [Mark Vancleave/Star-Tribune via AP]

A day after another victory over its archrival, Ohio State moved on to its next challenge.

It might be as much psychological as physical. Wisconsin, the Buckeyes’ opponent in the Big Ten championship game Saturday in Indianapolis, is a solid team. The 12th-ranked Badgers (10-2) went to No. 8 Minnesota and trounced the Golden Gophers 38-17 to win the Big Ten West.

Get the news delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our BuckeyeXtra newsletter

But while there is genuine respect for Wisconsin, the No. 1 Buckeyes (12-0) have already defeated the Badgers this season. Ohio State scored the game’s final four touchdowns in the second half for a 38-7 victory five weeks ago.

With his team coming off the 56-27 rout of Michigan and a hard-fought 28-17 win over Penn State the previous week, Buckeyes coach Ryan Day knows that his team cannot afford a letdown.

“To say it's not a challenge would be not accurate,” Day said Sunday on a teleconference. “We’ve got to be able to rebound back after that emotional win (against Michigan).”

Day said he will emphasize the need for preparation and rest this week. But he believes that Ohio State being able to rest starters in the second half of lopsided wins earlier in the year has kept them fresh. He added that Wisconsin is also coming off an emotional victory.

Depending on the outcome of other conference championship games, the Buckeyes possibly could withstand a loss and still be selected for the College Football Playoff. But it’s not a proposition the Buckeyes want to test. That, and the goal of winning a Big Ten championship for the third straight year, should be enough motivation.

As for facing a team twice in a season, Day did that against divisional opponents when he coached in the NFL before coming to Ohio State. He said adjustments are necessary, but teams aren’t going to change their identity.

“It's the same for both teams,” Day said. “You're familiar with each other because you play. You just do the best you can to put a good game plan together to try to anticipate what you’re going to see in all three phases.

“Then it comes down to players and making sure they have a good, clean plan that they can go put on the field.”

Ohio State played without cornerback Shaun Wade against Michigan because of an unspecified injury. The Wolverines threw for 250 yards in the first half before Buckeyes adjustments and Michigan drops allowed Ohio State to clamp down.

Day said Wade, who went through pregame drills, was close to being able to play.

“We just determined that it just wasn't quite ready,” he said. “We want to be smart with that, and made the right decision. (He) should be ready to roll for this week.”

Fellow cornerback Damon Arnette left the game in the second half. Day said he would know more about his status later in the week.

As for quarterback Justin Fields, who aggravated a medial collateral ligament strain in his left knee, Day expects no issues against Wisconsin.

“He was dealing with that one issue there, but he's going to get rehab this week and he'll be fine,” he said.


Listen to the BuckeyeXtra Football podcast: