ATLANTA — No. 1 Georgia was a sure-thing for the 2022 College Football Playoffs. After Ohio State’s devastating 45-23 loss to Michigan, the second loss in two years to the Wolverines and missing out on the Big Ten Championship Game, from the outside, all hope for head coach Ryan Day and his Buckeyes was lost.
From the dreadful day in Columbus on November 26, Ohio State fans cheered for a USC loss for the chance of the Buckeyes making it into the CFP and on Selection Sunday, Ohio State was revived with a chance to re-write its story on the 2022 season in its semifinal playoff game against Georgia on Saturday in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.
“When you have something taken away from you, it does give you a little bit more appreciation for what it is,” Day said.
If Ohio State had beaten Michigan, there would be no question that they were playoff bound. But the week between the Michigan loss and Selection Sunday on December 11th was a week of uncertainty, anxiety, and pain.
Despite missing out on two big goals — beating Michigan and winning the Big Ten Championship — Ohio State has a chance on Saturday to achieve its biggest goal, winning a national championship.
“When you look at the beginning of the year, you say to yourself where are we going to see ourselves in December, and this is the exact situation we saw ourselves in,” Day said. “So here we are.”
Finding a chance to re-write its story and the narrative surrounding the 2022 season, Ohio State went from one of its lowest points, to a peak of excitement and motivation all within a week.
“It certainly gave us an injection of energy, excitement for sure, coming off of that weekend and into that week. The next week it was a range of emotions,” Day said. “It allowed us an opportunity to have great energy and great focus and edge during the month of preparation for sure. So we’ll see. We’ll see tomorrow night. We’ll see where we’re at.”
As Ohio State prepares for its toughest competition yet, they aren’t shying away from the pressure of playing in this game. Players come to Ohio State to play in games like this. There’s no question that there’s a significant amount of pressure on Day and his team, knowing what’s on the line — not only a chance to compete in the national championship game, but also if the cards fall, beat Michigan. If Michigan beats TCU in the Fiesta Bowl semifinal, Ohio State would have a chance to face its rival again — this time for all the marbles.
Quarterback C.J. Stroud has never beaten Michigan and has never won a Big Ten Championship. But he could be the first quarterback to bring a National Championship to Columbus since the 2014 season.
But the pressure of potentially re-writing its season isn’t a focus for Ohio State. With facing No. 1 Georgia, Day knows he faces his toughest competition yet with a complete, skilled defense.
“You can’t focus on things like that,” Day said. “What it comes down to is just playing hard in practice and then going back on your training once you get out there and playing physical with your teammates.”
“There’s going to be good plays. There’s going to be bad plays, but just going out there and looking up at the scoreboard at the end of the game. That’s what we’re going to do in the game. We’re going to play as hard as we possibly can.”
Photo by Jason Parkhurst/Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl