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Ryan Day, Ohio State ready for Don Brown, Michigan defense

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Ohio State coach Ryan Day will battle Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown on Saturday. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

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Ryan Day, Ohio State ready for Don Brown, Michigan defense

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Ryan Day hadn’t heard when asked about the comments made by Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown. He also didn’t care to respond.

But the normal poker face Day carries through his weekly press conference was breached when the comment in question was brought to his attention on Nov. 12, three weeks before The Game.

“It’s another year, it’s a different group,”  Brown said on Michigan’s official In the Trenches podcast a few weeks back. “They better be careful because we’re hitting our stride, too. This is a two-way street, and I know our guys will be ready in three weeks.”

Day is right. He shouldn’t care to respond to a comment made three weeks before the rivalry game. He could have been a wise guy and blurted out “62” and gone on with the press conference, but he took the high road and decided Saturday’s game between Ohio State and Michigan can be his mouthpiece.

Simply put, Day undeniably outclassed Brown’s top-ranked Michigan defense a year ago, starting the game early with a first-quarter touchdown pass from Dwayne Haskins to Chris Olave on a crossing route. Michigan didn’t care to adjust, so Day fire-bombed the Wolverines defense to the tune of 62 points and 567 total yards.

But Day has seen changes this season.

“They’ve gone to a lot more zone,” he said. “But they mix it up. Coach Brown does a great job of that. He’s always had a lot of different coverages, a lot of different looks. I’m sure we’ll see a lot of them on Saturday.”

Day can give better thoughts on Brown than nearly everyone. It goes far beyond last season’s Buckeyes beatdown, too. When Day played quarterback at New Hampshire, he faced a Brown defense. Brown coached Day’s brother at UMass. Day and Brown coached together at Boston College.

And then the rivalry.

“Nothing but respect obviously for [Brown’s] background and what he’s done defensively over the years,” Day said of Brown. “One of the best guys in the business.”

Once Saturday comes, the game plan that Day seemed to master against Brown, who seemed to be playing checkers in the middle of the chess match last year, will happen again. Day knows it’s a new year and a new Michigan defense. The likelihood of dumping 62 points and embarrassing the Wolverines again is slim. Brown made huge adjustments to his defense, particularly the bracket coverage that Michigan has shown during Big Ten play to take away underneath and crossing routes.

chris olave-ohio state football

Chris Olave made big plays in The Game last season. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

It’ll be Day’s turn to show new wrinkles.

“This is a whole new year,” Day said. “We look at the film a little bit to see what they did, everything like that. They’re going to make adjustments on all that stuff. They’re very well-coached. We really don’t look at that much at all. We’re really looking at this year, kind of what we do, what they’re doing. Their personnel is different now. What he’s doing is significantly different.”

Day isn’t naive at all. He knows Brown has been thinking about this game since the Ohio State offensive game plan from a year ago ruined any chances the Wolverines had at the College Football Playoff. He knows that Michigan has been focusing on its defense to stop the Buckeyes in the Big House on Saturday. And he knows Don Brown will have new schemes to throw Day and the offense out of a rhythm that has allowed them to be the No. 1 offense in the country.

“I’ll say this: Nobody gives more looks than Don Brown when it comes to different looks,” Day said. “He takes a lot of pride in that. I know that. Over the years his different teams, they’ll play more zone than man, they’ll play more man than zone. What he does a great job of is he puts his guys in positions to be successful.

“Some of those things last year maybe it seemed like they were still zone. He changes it up. He does a great job. I know he’s going to do another good job this weekend.”

Brown said Ohio State “better be ready.” It seems like Day will be ready for whatever Brown has to offer.

Spencer Holbrook

Spencer Holbrook covers Ohio State football and basketball for Lettermen Row. A graduate of Ohio University's Scripps School of Journalism, he's in his second year covering the Buckeyes. He was previously the sports editor at Ohio's student newspaper, The Post, where he covered Ohio University football and men's basketball.

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