Videos by OutKick
A television sports commentator once called former Ohio State coach John Cooper “the unhappiest coach on earth.”
This was late in his doomed career (1988-2000) with the Buckeyes, whom he led to five 10-win seasons and four major bowl games (Rose once, Outback once, Sugar three times) over his last five seasons.
But he tended to lose bowls (3-8), and almost always lost to Michigan (2-10-1). Three times he lost to Michigan when Ohio State was undefeated and Michigan was not, ruining national championship hopes in 1993, ’95 and ’96.
On the sidelines, particularly against Michigan, Cooper always looked like he had to go to the bathroom. Through his expressions, mannerisms and body language, he often seemed like he was almost waiting for something to go wrong, and it usually did against Michigan. He was fatalistic, which is different than negatively motivated.
Alabama coach Nick Saban is negatively motivated, which is why he is so successful. But he is not fatalistic or overly negative when coaching. He maintains a positive outlook, though it may not always look like it. He virtually always thinks he is going to win, and usually does. Cooper seemed to coach against Michigan as if he knew he was going to lose.
Did John Cooper Inhabit Ryan Day’s Body?
On Saturday, it seemed like Cooper had inhabited present Ohio State coach Ryan Day’s body.
Day was 11-0 before losing to 11-0 Michigan, 45-23, at Ohio Stadium. It was Ohio State’s most lopsided loss to Michigan since 1993 when an unranked 6-4 Wolverines team beat No. 5 Ohio State (9-0-1) and Cooper, 28-0.
It was Michigan’s first win at Ohio State since 2000. It marked the first time Michigan beat the Buckeyes back-to-back since 1999 and 2000 – Cooper’s last two seasons.
Day was shaking his head throughout the game that Michigan dominated as it wore on. But the Buckeyes led early, 10-3, by 13-10 in the second quarter and by 20-17 at the half. But Day seemed tight like Cooper. He seemed to dread the game as it went on. A total of nine penalities for 91 yards can do that to a coach.
Ryan Day Is Winning A Lot, Like John Cooper Did
Meanwhile, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, who lost his first five of these, rarely has the body language or expression Day had Saturday. He seemed much less like Cooper. He welcomed the game all week with gratitude that seemed boyish, but refreshing. It worked.
And Ohio State’s coach could be called Doomed Day.
Yet, Day has only been the Buckeyes’ permanent head coach since 2019 after serving as an assistant in 2017 and most of ’18. Over that time, he has gone to five major bowls and the national championship game in just his second season in 2020 before losing to Saban. He was 13-1 in 2019 and 11-2 last year before the 11-0 start this season. And he is only 1-2 against Michigan.
But he sounded like he was weary of watching Cooper’s teams on Saturday.
Ryan Day’s Curious Comment: ‘That’s Life At Ohio State’
“I don’t know exactly what is next right now, but that’s life at Ohio State,” he said. “I certainly know what this game means to everybody. When you lose, it all comes back to me. I’m the head coach, and that’s probably what hurts the most.”
That’s life at Ohio State? Excuse me.
Life at Ohio State until only last year has been beating just about everybody, including Michigan. Urban Meyer, who preceded Day, was 7-0 against Michigan and won the national championship in the 2014 season. Jim Tressel was 9-1 against Michigan before Meyer and played in two national championship games.
That’s life at Ohio State? That sounds a little fatalistic, Doomed Day.
Day needs to get his team to play against Michigan so as to enjoy the win – not dread the loss.
And there is a new day for the Buckeyes anyway. LSU, which it needed to lose to Georgia in the SEC title game on Saturday, lost a week earlier than expected. Texas A&M, which came in at 4-7, upset the No. 5 Tigers, 38-23, Saturday night.
Ohio State (11-1) is near the top of most strength of schedule rankings. TeamRanking.com had the Buckeyes at No. 4 on Sunday with an 11.6 rating. Alabama (10-2) was No. 1 at 13.7 with Tennessee (10-2) at No. 2 and Texas (8-4) at No. 3. The Buckeyes fell to No. 5 in the latest Associated Press poll on Sunday, though that is meaningless with the College Football Playoff rankings. Those come out Tuesday night and again with final one on Sunday before the postseason.
USC (11-1) may be Ohio State’s strongest competition to reach the College Football Playoff final four, and its schedule ranking is No. 36.
So there is hope, and Ryan Day needs to act like it.
Or that 1-2 could start moving toward 2-10-1 really quick.