The idea of disrespect has been a major theme of this year’s College Football Playoff.
LSU was disrespected because they fell from No. 1 all the way down to No. 2 in the rankings during the regular season.
Oklahoma was disrespected because they’re a big underdog against LSU.
Clemson was disrespected because, as head coach Dabo Swinney told his team, they were the first defending national champion to go unbeaten and drop to No. 3. (Nope! It happened to Florida State in 2014.)
And back in November, Swinney calmly and rationally explained that there was a massive college football cabal, lurking in the shadows and conspiring to find any excuse to drop Clemson down to the Iowa and Cincinnati neighborhood in the polls.
“Obviously, if we lose this game, they are going to kick us out. They don’t want us there anyway. We’d drop to 20 (if Clemson lost to South Carolina). Georgia loses to this very same team, and it’s, ‘How do we keep Georgia in?’…We win, against the team that beat [Georgia], and it’s, ‘How do we get Clemson out?’ It’s the dadgummest thing.’”
The concept of disrespect is a well-worn trope in sports, and especially college sports. Urban Meyer famously hung up fake quotes bashing his Florida team in the Gators’ locker room before the 2006 National Championship Game.
Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio basically built his Spartans program on the basis of real or perceived doubters and haters.
There has been plenty of disrespect talk from the Buckeyes as well. They’re the underdogs in the Fiesta Bowl, and dropped from No. 1 to No. 2 in the final College Football Playoff rankings.
But Day has managed to stay away from Swinney’s “Late Night Coast To Coast” version of college football reality.
“We’re not getting into that too much,” Day said Thursday. “We know going in it doesn’t really matter what people think of it. What matters is what we put on the field.”
In a year with three teams who have clearly separated themselves from the rest of the college football world, being one of the top three is a sign of pretty much universal respect. And Day knows that his team has an opportunity to show exactly how much respect it really deserves.
“If you want respect, go beat the defending national champs who have won 28 straight games. Whatever people think, they think. At the end of the game, what matters is what they think on Saturday night,” he said.
Junior cornerback Jeff Okudah agreed.
“I think it’s just a challenge that we welcome. I think underdog, favored, when the ball gets kicked, you have to play football. So we’re ready for that. We’re confident in what we’re going to be able to do,” Okudah said.
Junior defensive end Chase Young compared it to Michigan being picked by many people to win the Big Ten this fall.
“I feel like we were underdogs the whole season, kind of. Going into the Big Ten, they didn’t have us as number one. I felt that right there was a smack in the face. I feel like we’ve been here before. We’ve been the underdog plenty of times. What are you going to say about it? You’ve got to do what you do,” Young said.
Ohio State has now been certified as one of the top three elite teams in the nation this year. Now, it’s up to them how high in that triumverate they can climb.
“We have an opportunity to go win the game,” Day said. “You want respect, then you gotta go beat these guys. What better people to do it against than the defending national champs who are very, very good and they’ve been good for a long time now.”