Another Michigan loss creates loads of uncertainty for Ryan Day, Ohio State

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — A third straight Ohio State loss to Michigan earned the Wolverines another trip to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship and a boatload of uncertainty for the Buckeyes.

In the aftermath of a 30-24 defeat Saturday, Ohio State coach Ryan Day was asked by a national columnist if the Buckeyes are a playoff team.

He said he hadn’t thought about it much yet.

“Everything is so focused on this game, I’d have to kind of process that,” Day said. “We have a very good team. We came up short today and it’s devastating, but I believe in our players.”

Ohio State backed into the CFP last season thanks to Utah upsetting USC in the Pac 12 Championship Game.

Lightning could strike again, but it seems less likely as four power conference teams are still undefeated (Georgia, Michigan, Washington and Florida State) and once-beaten Texas looks most likely to benefit from one of them losing thanks to an early-season win over Alabama.

The Crimson Tide are still alive as well with a chance to beat Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, and Oregon could just take Washington’s spot if the Ducks can avenge a midseason loss to the Huskies in the Pac 12 title game.

“We have a veteran team,” Day said. “We have a team that is solid in all three phases. I’d have to see what else is out there. I’ve just been so focused on this game. I appreciate the question.

“I do believe this team can play with anybody in the country.”

Day has many more pressing questions to answer within his program regardless.

Aside from allowing Michigan to completely flip the script on the biggest rivalry in sports after 15 years of Ohio State dominance, Day has to wonder who is even going to be on his team next season.

Super seniors Josh Proctor, Matt Jones and Xavier Johnson Jr. are out of eligibility, while another seven players who were starters or at least played a fair amount took part in Senior Day while having the option to return for an extra year as a result of playing through the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

That group includes linebackers Tommy Eichenberg, Steele Chambers and Cody Simon, receiver Julian Fleming, running back Miyan Williams (who suffered a season-ending injury), safety Lathan Ransom and tight end Cade Stover.

They also have the option to transfer elsewhere to finish out their eligibility.

Meanwhile, a dozen starters are juniors who could enter the NFL Draft. Not all of them will, but the majority were high-end recruits who could feel they have done enough to see what they can do at the next level regardless of how close they might have come to maxing out their time in college.

That includes star receivers Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka, running back TreVeyon Henderson, left guard Donovan Jackson, cornerbacks Denzel Burke and Jordan Hancock and defensive linemen J.T. Tuimoloau, Jack Sawyer, Tyleik Williams and Mike Hall Jr.

The Buckeyes are certain to get an invitation to a premium bowl game, but if it is not a playoff game many or all of Ohio State’s potential NFL draft picks could opt to sit out to begin training for the NFL Scouting Combine and protect themselves from injury.

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