This time it was the Badgers who went down hard at Ohio Stadium, but in both cases Ryan Day had the same message.
“The schedule is the way it is, and from the beginning we talked to our team about the way the schedule played out so they’ve expected this,” Day said Saturday. “We knew where we wanted to be at this point, and we know we come up for air and talk about that final stretch of four games there. And hopefully we’ll go from there. But again staying locked in on that.”
Eleven games into a coaching tenure might seem early to go into reruns, but for Day it’s hard to argue with a formula that has worked so far.
After a three-game cameo as head coach last season, he has taken the reins full-time this fall and led the Buckeyes full-throttle through all comers so far.
Two starters — defensive end Jonathon Cooper and receiver Austin Mack — missed the Wisconsin game with unidentified injuries, and quarterback Justin Fields got knocked around a little by the Badgers, so the team will take what it can get as far as rest.
“It was just from the touchdown,” Fields said afterward of a brief trip to the medical tent on the Ohio State sideline. “I kind of landed on my back a little bit, but I should be good.”
With 24 touchdown passes and nine touchdown runs in eight games, Field has been good in more ways than one.
So have the Buckeyes, who have won every game by at least 24 points despite having to break in a new head coach, eight starters on offense and a new scheme on defense.
After their second week off of the season, they will finish the season with a bit of an odd four-game set that should mix mental and physical challenges.
First up is a visit from Maryland. The 3-5 Terrapins started 3-2 but have lost three in a row under new coach Mike Locksley. His offensive acumen and potential as a recruiter could make him a noteworthy adversary in the future, but he isn’t likely to have the team to scare the Buckeyes much this time around.
Then comes a trip to Rutgers (currently 2-6), a program without a full-time head coach or a win over a Power 5 conference opponent in nearly two calendar years.
After taking on the Big Ten’s two newest teams, Ohio State will finish with two of its best.
Penn State entered the weekend ranked sixth in the Associated Press poll and did nothing to jeopardize that by sending Michigan State to another defeat, 28-7.
The undefeated Nittany Lions, who are off this week before traveling to fellow-unbeaten Minnesota, have shown the type of offensive firepower and defensive play-making to hang with Ohio State, but wins have been hard for them to come by at Ohio Stadium.
Then, of course, there is Michigan.
The Wolverines (6-2) have been left for dead twice already this season after a blowout loss at Wisconsin in September and a seven-point setback at Penn State just a week ago, but Jim Harbaugh's team showed signs of life Saturday night in a punishing 45-14 destruction of Notre Dame.
Ohio State will have the Big Ten East wrapped up before traveling to Ann Arbor on Nov. 30 if they win their next three games, but The Game is always the ultimate one-game season.
FLASHBACK: Ohio State cancels Michigan revenge tour, earns Big Ten title game berth
Ohio State provided the reminder last season with a surprise 62-39 blowout of the favored Wolverines, who are itching for payback and to snap a seven-game losing streak in the series.
“November is the final run,” Day said. “This is where all the memories are made. This is what it all comes down to, but again, not trying to look too far ahead, just trying to do a great job getting healthy in a bye week and talk about the plan and what we want to do in terms of expectations for next week. And be ready to make the last run.”
Saturday, Nov. 9
Maryland at Ohio State, TBA