AP Top 25 Takeaways: Ohio State’s Day is now faced with doubters


Welcome to Jim Harbaugh’s past life, Ryan Day.

That’s how things work at the top of the college football food chain. If you can’t win the most important game of your schedule, the question arises, are you the right man for the job?

For the second straight season, the Michigan team beat Harbaugh Day and Ohio State.

Day is 45-5 at Ohio State as a substitute for Urban Meyer but 1-2 against Michigan.

“We’ll find out what’s next. I don’t know exactly what’s next now, but that’s life in the state of Ohio,” Day told reporters. “If you lose, it all comes back to me as the head coach. And that probably hurts the most.”

What hurts Ohio State fans the most is that The Game was played out in a way that was meant to be to the advantage of the second-seeded Buckeyes, a back-and-forth affair that left quarterbacks to make the difference.

With star running back Blake Corum, the third-placed Wolverines turned from ground-and-pound into a big-play machine, ripping off five touchdowns for a total of 349 yards.

Meanwhile, Day was poking around from midfield in fourth and third.

“In games like this you have to play the field position game.” day said. “I just feel like you’re not in those situations when you convert to third downs.”

Ohio State was 5 for 16 in third place.

Under Day, Ohio State has become a factory for quarterbacks and wide receivers. CJ Stroud will almost certainly be the Buckeyes’ third straight passer to be a first-round NFL draft pick next April.

Marvin Harrison Jr. is the top receiver in the country. He’s part of a room full of blue chippers who produced two first-round picks last draft.

The talent doesn’t stop there. Ohio state has the third most talented roster in college football, behind Georgia and Alabama, according to 247 Sports’ composite rankings based on star recruitment.

So of course it has to be the coaching, right? And whether it really is the coaching is not the point. Michigan (12-0) raised its flag right in the middle of Ohio State’s “O” block at the post-game 50-yard line. Someone is being held responsible for this happening.

Meyer never lost to the Wolverines. Before that, it was Jim Tressel who turned the Buckeyes’ rivalry on its head, beating Michigan 9-1.

Ohio State fans have grown accustomed to dominating That Team Up North.

When Harbaugh arrived in Ann Arbor, Michigan from the NFL as a potential savior for his alma mater’s struggling football program, Wolverines fans hoped he could change their fortunes in The Game.

Instead, Harbaugh went 0-5. Never mind that he rebuilt the program and pulled Michigan out of its greatest depths. At the top of his resume: Can’t beat Ohio State. And for that he was pilloried.

No longer. Michigan may not be the more talented team, but it certainly looks like the tougher team, the team that handles adversity better.

“This is a spiritual team,” Harbaugh said. “They are happy. They celebrate, but they see bigger things.”

The Big Ten championship against Purdue awaits next week. Win that and Michigan will make its second straight college football playoff.

There’s still a chance the Buckeyes will return to the CFP and maybe find redemption there. The selection committee seems to be running out of good options after Clemson also lost on Saturday.

That’s not what the state of Ohio had in mind. Last season, after the defense melted down in big spots, Day took those Buckeyes bucks and lured coordinator Jim Knowles away from Oklahoma State to fix the problem.

Did not work. At least not when it mattered.

Now Day, a coach with a mountain of accomplishments and an annual salary of more than $9 million, is being judged for his mistakes and compared to former Buckeyes coach John Cooper.

Cooper is a Hall of Famer, but for Ohio State fans he’s best remembered for that: 2-10-1 against Michigan.

After a second brilliant performance in a row on a big stage, Caleb Williams has the Heisman Trophy within his reach.

The USC quarterback ran for three points, managed several amazing escapes and even dropped a Heisman pose as the Trojans defeated No. 13 Notre Dame.

“My teammates told me to do it, and I did it after one of the touchdowns,” Williams said of the flash of the familiar stiff arm.

The win straightens out USC’s path to the playoffs. If the Trojans win the Pac-12 championship game, they’re in. From 4-8 to 11-1 in coach Lincoln Riley’s first season.

USC gets a rematch against No. 14 Utah next week after an epic meltdown by No. 10 Oregon at No. 22 Oregon State kept the Ducks from securing their spot in the title game.

No. 12 Washington defeated Washington State in the all-time Apple Cup, sending the Utes to Las Vegas.

No matter how things go there, it’s hard to imagine the Heisman going to anyone other than Williams.

He would be the eighth USC player to win the award and the first since Reggie Bush in 2005.

He would also be the third Riley quarterback to win the Heisman, along with Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray in Oklahoma.

Williams followed Riley from Norman to USC and together they made Trojans football cool again.

“I stood right there and told you what our expectations were for Day 1,” Riley said. “A lot of people thought I was crazy and that’s okay. … It was fun to run.”

Ahead of the championship weekend, the stakes don’t look particularly high — at least when it comes to the college football playoffs.

Undefeated No. 1 Georgia (12-0) is heading towards the Southeastern Conference championship with their playoff position seemingly secured.

No. 6 LSU (No. 5 CFP) was hoping to pull off a big upset against the Bulldogs and become the first team to make the playoffs with two losses. Then the Tigers were beaten by Texas A&M.

The SEC champ has never missed the playoffs, but if LSU pulls off the unlikely against Georgia, it will be the first.

At this point, the Big Ten and Big 12 title games don’t look particularly meaningful either.

Michigan and No. 4 TCU (12-0) likely deserve the Georgia treatment regardless of what happens next week.

The Horned Frogs meet No. 15 Kansas State, who gambled away an 18-point lead over TCU in the regular season.

If USC lost, who would?

Ohio State (11-1) didn’t really look like a team worthy of a mulligan.

Clemson’s chances vanished with a loss to South Carolina. The Gamecocks entered the playoff race and played spoilers for the second straight week.

South Carolina followed up last week’s win over Tennessee with another win over Clemson (10-2) and gave him back-to-back wins against top-10 teams.

“I feel like we’re in our own college football playoffs the way we’ve been playing for the past two weeks,” said South Carolina coach Shane Beamer.

Hey, maybe Alabama isn’t out yet?

Just kidding. The Crimson Tide (10-2) is out. Probably. We believe.

No. 25 UCF needed a late touchdown drive that included two of the season’s best catches to escape USF and earn a berth in the American Athletic Conference title game against No. 19 Tulane. … For the first time since 1994, Minnesota is allowed to keep Paul Bunyan’s axe. The Gophers beat Wisconsin for the second straight year, but a 4-3 finish will likely be enough for the Badgers Brass to call caretaker coach Jim Leonhard to the permanent position as early as Sunday. … Shortly after Oregon’s collapse, news broke that Ducks offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham was close to being named Arizona State’s youngest-ever head coach of the Power Five. Dillingham, 32, is a native of Phoenix and a graduate of the State of Arizona. … The Iron Bowl didn’t get as much attention as usual, unless you count all the speculation about Auburn’s next coach. But let’s take a moment to pay tribute to Tide quarterback Bryce Young, who probably played his last home game. Maybe even his last college game ever. Young threw for 343 yards and three touchdowns against Auburn. He won’t win another Heisman and he won’t win a national title as a starter, but he was undeniably one of the greatest players of the Nick Saban dynasty. … Texas Tech defeated Oklahoma in overtime to claim victories over the Sooners and Texas in the same season for the first time in program history. Oklahoma had its worst regular season, 6-6, since 1998, the year before Bob Stoops took over as coach.

Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at http://www.appodcasts.com

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