Chicago — New Ohio State coach Ryan Day knows there’s no reason to mess with something that’s been working.
Day, who became head coach after Urban Meyer announced his retirement, was asked during an interview breakout session at Big Ten media days on Thursday whether he will change Ohio State’s approach to its rivalry with Michigan.
“No, that worked — 7-0,” Day said. “(That) worked just fine.”
Meyer was 7-0 against Michigan, which last won in the series in 2011 at Michigan Stadium. The Buckeyes have won 14 of the last 15 in the rivalry, including last year’s 62-39 victory at Ohio Stadium. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is 0-4 against Ohio State.
“The thing I learned from Urban right from the minute I got there — you’ve got to work The Game every day, and the way to honor the rivalry and to respect the rivalry is to work it every day, and we do,” Day said Thursday. “It’s a part of what we do, whether it’s recruiting or every day we have periods we have in practice we call ‘The Team Up North’ drill, so we live it every day.
“It’s something we always have in the back of our minds. We have stuff up in our facility. We respect those guys to the utmost and the program that they have, and we know this year is going to be hard. Last year was a little bit of an anomaly. You know, it got sideways, but we know it’s not going to be easy this year. So we’re going to have our hands full again going up there.”
Day vaguely explained “The Team up North” as Ohio State practicing “against them” every day.
How seriously does he take the rivalry game? Early this year he hired longtime Michigan assistant Greg Mattison as co-defensive coordinator — Mattison had been defensive line coach — and UM linebackers coach Al Washington, whose father played for the Buckeyes.
Several preseason magazines and national pundits have predicted Michigan to win the Big Ten East Division this season and beating Ohio State.
For his part, Day said he’s not focused on predictions, but when asked if these can serve as bulletin board material for his players, he didn’t deny they see these things.
“I think our guys read it, they see it,” Day said. “Especially with social media, it's more available than ever. But, again, that's not something that we focus on.
"I've talked to our guys about the expectations at Ohio State couldn't be any higher year in and year out. We know that. But if we focus on all that, we can get distracted because it really doesn't matter. I know that sounds like coach speak, but it's true. Because in the end, what matters is if we win the game. And the only thing that's going to help us do that is if we get better day in and day out."
Day said the quarterback competition will carry into preseason camp, although most project transfer Justin Fields as the starter. Camp opens Aug. 2, and he likes what he has seen so far from the Buckeyes.
“I feel great about the team,” he said. “I love our team. I love our players. I love being around the guys. There are teams you get around where it's a labor to go to work. That's not the case here. These are great kids and they're working really, really hard. But like I said, we have a lot to prove. This is a new staff. This is a new team. We haven't done anything, and we need to do that. So our guys have been working really, really hard.
“But it's going to come down to proving it on the field. That's what matters in the end. We've got to do it as a staff. We've got to do it as offense, defense and special teams.”