OSU football: 5 takeaways from Ryan Day’s preview of the Big Ten Championship game

Ohio State players celebrate with Haskell Garrett (92) after his touchdown on an interception during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Michigan State, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)

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Ohio State players celebrate with Haskell Garrett (92) after his touchdown on an interception during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Michigan State, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)

Buckeyes set to take on Northwestern on Saturday afternoon

COLUMBUS -- After another unexpected week off, Ohio State is preparing to play Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship game Saturday in Indianapolis.

Ryan Day kicked off the week with a video conference Sunday.

ExploreBuckeyes dominate in return to the field against Michigan State

Here are five takeaways from the coach’s meeting with reporters:

1. His guys are used to getting bad news by now.

That was the coach of the Buckeyes’ response when asked about how his team took not being able to play Michigan, which canceled the 2020 edition of The Game because of an ongoing COVID-19 outbreak within the program.

“I think if this was something where it just happened last year and everything was going normal and then this game got canceled, it would probably take a lot longer to recover from, but we’re actually getting used to receiving bad news and having to move on quickly,” Day said.

“I think we’ve become hardened as a team to that. And because of that, we moved on pretty quickly and transitioned right to playing in the championship game because that’s what mattered next. Early on when when we would get bad news I mean you’d see long faces and it would take a couple days to peel them up off the pavement, but now I think these guys have learned a lot and because of that, again, we’re able to transition fast.”

2. He did not offer an update on personnel.

“Last time I said anything, I think I jinxed myself, so I’m gonna I’m gonna plead the fifth on this,” he said when asked about how many of the nearly two-dozen players who missed Ohio State’s win over Michigan State on Dec. 5 would be available to face the Wildcats on Saturday.

No Ohio State football player has been publicly identified as testing positive, and some of those players who missed the game against the Spartans were out because injuries or forced to quarantine after being in close contact with a person who tested positive.

Any player who tests positive for COVID-19 must be withheld from competition for at least 21 days, but those who were sidelined as a result of contact tracing can return sooner.

After Day’s appearance on the video conference, quarterback Justin Fields said offensive linemen Josh Myers, Thayer Munford and Nicholas Petit-Frere have been able to return to the team. They missed the clash with the Spartans.

3. He praised the job Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald has done in leading his team to a second Big Ten West championship in three years.

“They don’t give you anything,” Day said. “You have to earn it all, and you have to go all the way down the field. You’ve got to play well on third down. You’ve got to play well in a red zone. That’s just how it works. And they’re gonna create turnovers, and they do a good job on offense as well so it’s a challenge.”

4. Day does not want style points to be an issue.

The Buckeyes were fourth in the College Football Playoff rankings last week, and their chances of making the final four likely were boosted by LSU’s upset of No. 6 Florida on Saturday night.

That should prevent the Gators from jumping Ohio State if Florida beats No. 1 Alabama in the SEC Championship game this weekend, but Day said he would rather not worry about it at all yet.

“I thought about this the other day: I don’t think there’s any other sport in the world where anything other than winning matters,” Day said. “It’s very, very unique that way, and again it just goes against anything. Just winning is what matters in every sport. I mean, if you were to win by one point in the NFL every week, you go undefeated and win the Super Bowl. That’s all that matters, but college football is different, and this year it’s even more strange, but all we’re going to do is worry about winning and doing the best we can to take it one play at a time.

“I talked to the team about that this week. If we start to go into a game trying to do anything other than just win one play at a time, you can get yourself sideways, so we’ll just focus on that one play at a time. And then at the end of the game, we’ll look up and see where we’re at.”

5. With National Signing Day set for Wednesday, he is happy with how his staff has juggled recruiting and game preparation.

The global pandemic has not slowed down Ohio State’s recruiting machine.

OSU’s class is No. 2 nationally in 247Sports Composite rankings, trailing just Alabama.

The class includes five five-star players and six players from Ohio with both of those groups headlined by Pickerington North defensive end Jack Sawyer, the nation’s No. 4 player overall.

“One thing that has been a little different in terms of recruiting is just that nobody’s been visiting,” Day said. “So this time of year, you’d be in the middle of official visits and people would be on the road recruiting, but that’s not the case this season.

“So going into signing day, it’s been a little less hectic, but that doesn’t mean our day to day isn’t less hectic. There’s just been a lot to juggle, but overall it’s just been unique and I think our staff’s done a good job of handling it.”

SATURDAY’S GAME

Ohio State vs. Northwestern, Noon, Fox, 1410

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