1. The B1G Story

No one walks away from the starting quarterback job at Ohio State. Let’s make that clear from the jump.

The question: Why did Kyle McCord, who started all 12 games for the Buckeyes this season, enter the transfer portal?

More than likely, because coach Ryan Day told him he would have to compete for the job in spring practice and fall camp.

Translation: We’re jumping into the transfer portal to find a quarterback.

It could be Washington State’s Cameron Ward, or Oklahoma’s Dillon Gabriel, or Duke Riley Leonard — or any of a growing number of quarterbacks hitting the portal in search of a new home and more NIL money.

But the underlying theme can’t be overlooked: The cracks in Day’s near flawless tenure at Ohio State are becoming fractures. For the first time since he accepted the ceremonial whistle from Urban Meyer after the January 2019 Rose Bowl, Day is at a crossroads.

He has lost 3 straight games to Michigan, each more deflating and demoralizing than the previous. The most recent preventing what many NFL scouts say is the nation’s most talented team from competing in the Playoff.

And on top of all that, the 1 thing he had figured out more than any other in his brief Ohio State tenure — the quarterback position — is now a mess. McCord is gone, and so too is the Day magic that he sprinkled over every quarterback since he stepped on campus in Columbus in 2017 as an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

Dwayne Haskins, Justin Fields and CJ Stroud put up huge numbers in Day’s offense, and developed into 1st round picks in the NFL Draft. Why wouldn’t anyone think the same would happen to McCord?

The 3 previous Ohio State quarterbacks averaged 41 TDs a season. McCord had 24. The 3 previous quarterbacks lifted Ohio State to the top 5 in offense in the nation.

The Buckeyes sit at No. 33 in the nation in scoring offense and No. 37 in total offense. And with plenty of questions heading into a critical offseason.

2. Restocking and reloading

McCord didn’t reach expectations despite having a loaded group of skill players, including the best wide receiving corps in the nation (2 projected Day 1 NFL Draft picks WRs Marvin Harrison Jr., Emeka Egbuka), a Day 1 tailback (TreVeyon Henderson) and a tight end that could move into the 1st round (Cade Stover).

Now, more bad news: They’re all gone after this season. More than likely, all were gone after the loss to Michigan 2 weeks ago, but that’s still to be determined.

It would be shocking if anyone from that group put their professional career in jeopardy by playing in a meaningless Cotton Bowl against Missouri.

That means wide receiver Jeremiah Smith, the No. 1 overall player in the 2024 247Sports composite rankings, will have to make an impact immediately next season. Before you begin to check that box, understand this: WRs Carnell Tate, Brandon Inniss and Noah Rogers were all top-40 recruits — and top 8 at their position — from the 2023 class.

They combined to catch 18 passes for 318 yards and 2 TDs in 2023. It’s also not a given they stay at Ohio State, either — especially with Day singing 2 more top-30 overall wide receivers in the 2024 class (including Mylan Graham).

It’s not as simple as plug-and-play, as Day and Ohio State saw from the McCord experiment. Everything will be new in Columbus next season, including the most important piece of all.

3. The QB move

McCord’s move more than likely means Devin Brown, a redshirt freshmen who lost out to McCord in the fall camp competition, will play against Mizzou.

Lincoln Kienholz, a freshman from the 2023 class, will join the competition in bowl preparations and spring practice, as will incoming freshman 4-star Air Noland, a midterm enrollee.

The key, though, is where Day looks in the portal. Ohio State has the NIL money to compete with any school, and more important, Day has an elite reputation as a developer of quarterbacks.

Now that McCord has entered the portal, quarterbacks will approach Ohio State as much as Day will approach quarterbacks. Ward, who fits Day’s system, is an obvious option.

He has thrown for 6,966 yards and has 61 TDs (13 rush) and 16 INTs in 2 seasons at Washington State since transferring from FCS Incarnate Word. Gabriel is another intriguing option.

He has thrown for 14,865 career yards in 5 seasons at UCF and most recently Oklahoma, and has an impressive TD/INT ratio of 125/26. He has 151 career touchdowns (26 rush).

Whoever plays quarterback, they’ll deal with a depleted roster on offense, including the aforementioned skill players who all will likely leave for the NFL, and top backups TB Miyan Williams (NFL Draft) and WR Julian Fleming (portal) are gone, too. More could follow; Monday was Day 1 of the winter transfer portal’s 30-day window to declare.

This much we do know: Ohio State couldn’t beat Michigan with an elite quarterback (Stroud) or a solid game manager (McCord). The next quarterback better be rare.

4. The Day question, The Epilogue

There’s 1 more critical factor to this offseason: the NFL’s Black Monday, when coaches are typically fired.

The Chicago Bears were interested in Day after the 2021 season, and there will be more franchises kicking the tires on highly-respected offensive mind with an impressive track record as a head coach.

Let’s not forget that Day is 56-7 (39-3 in Big Ten) in 5 seasons at Ohio State, so it’s much more than 3 straight losses to Michigan. If his kicker hits a 50-yard field goal as time expired in last year’s Playoff semifinal, Ohio State beats Georgia and more than likely routs TCU in the national championship game.

Think about that: 1 play — 1 lousy field goal — is the difference between a coaching tenure that includes a sparkling record and national title, and one that heads into this offseason with numerous questions.

If Day leaves for the NFL after Black Monday (Jan. 8), there will be no shortage of elite coaches interested in the job. But it will add another layer of transition to a program that already is staring down months of it.

5. The Weekly 5

Ranking the Top 5 Big Ten bowl games, with an early spread.

  • 1. Alabama (+1.5) vs. Michigan, Rose Bowl
  • 2. Ole Miss (+4.5) vs. Penn State, Peach Bowl
  • 3. Missouri (+2.5) vs. Ohio State, Cotton Bowl
  • 4. Auburn vs. Maryland (+2.5), Music City Bowl
  • 5. Utah vs. Northwestern (+7.5), Las Vegas Bowl

6. Your tape is your resume

An NFL scout analyzes a draft-eligible Big Ten player. This week: Wisconsin RB Braelon Allen.

He’s a big guy who can run. He reminds me a lot of AJ Dillon. You’re not going to get much wiggle from him, but he’ll find a crease and hit it — and run hard. I love the way he finishes runs, and he can really push a pile. He’s underrated in the pass game. Soft hands, and understands the concepts. He could work his way into the late 2nd round, but I see him as a 3rd-round pick.

7. Powered Up

This week’s Power Poll, and 1 big thing.

1. Michigan: Wolverines are 8-12 all-time in the Rose Bowl, the last a 32-18 loss to USC in 2007.

2. Ohio State: Buckeyes are 3-0 all-time in the Cotton Bowl, the last a 24-7 win over USC in 2017.

3. Penn State: Lions have never played in the Peach Bowl, but are 3-1 all-time in New Year’s 6 bowls.

4. Iowa: Hawkeyes are 1-1 all-time in the Citrus Bowl, the last a 20-17 loss to Kentucky in 2022.

5. Wisconsin: Badgers are 3-2 all-time in the Outback Bowl a 34-31 win over Auburn.

6. Northwestern: Wildcats have never played in the Las Vegas Bowl, and last played in a bowl in the 2021 Citrus Bowl.

7. Maryland: Terps have never played in the Music City Bowl, this is their 3rd straight bowl for the first time since 2006-08.

8. Rutgers: Scarlet Knights are 1-1 all-time in the Pinstripe Bowl, the last a 29-16 loss to Notre Dame in 2013.

9. Minnesota: Gophers are 2-0 all-time in the Quick Lane Bowl, the last a 34-10 win over Georgia Tech in 2018.

10. Illinois: Illini has been to 7 bowl games in the past 24 years, an average of 1 bowl every 3.5 years.

11. Nebraska: Huskers had 4 chances in November to reach bowl eligibility for the 1st time since 2016 — and lost all 4 1-possession games by a combined 16 points.

12. Michigan State: Spartans have missed the postseason for the 3rd time in the past 5 seasons, and are 7-3 in their past 10 bowl games dating to 2011.

13. Purdue: Boilermakers have missed the postseason for the 3rd time in the past 5 seasons, and are 4-6 in their past 10 bowls dating to 2004.

14. Indiana: Hoosiers have missed the postseason 3 of the past 5 seasons, and are 2-8 in their past 10 bowl games dating to 1988.

8. Ask and you shall receive

Matt: What are your thoughts about the Jonathan Smith hire at Michigan State? — Sam Goldman, Detroit.


I will hit this topic at length during the offseason, but it’s a fantastic hire. I can’t underscore this enough: If Oregon State weren’t shut out of a Power 5 conference spot, Smith would still be at his alma mater Oregon State. He was that committed, and he was that happy in Corvallis.

It took a rare set of circumstances to pry him from Oregon State, and Michigan State is the benefactor. He’ll have to figure out recruiting in the Midwest, and he’ll need to work the transfer portal to turn over the roster.

But he did it at Oregon State, and there’s a strong chance he’ll do it in East Lansing. A no frills, no nonsense coach who players love to be around. His story — he grew up a mile from the Rose Bowl and walked on at Oregon State as a 5-9 quarterback, and then set records — is inspiring.

He was 34-35 at Oregon State, but it took 3 years of groundwork to rebuild the program. In his final 3 seasons, his teams won 25 games and became a legitimate factor in the Pac-12 race.

If he gets an elite quarterback — and blue-chip Oregon State freshman Aidan Chiles would be a nice fit — the turnaround will be quick.

9. Numbers

9.5. The single digit finish in points per game allowed by the Michigan defense is impressive enough. But a further breakdown explains just how rare this season has been.

  • vs. road games: 9.3 ppg.
  • vs. conference: 10.7 ppg.
  • vs. ranked teams: 13.0 ppg. (3 games).
  • vs. Power 5 teams: 10.7 ppg. (10 games).

10 Quote to note

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz comparing this Michigan defense to last year’s unit: “Those interior guys, they’ve got a big, physical group of interior guys. And they’re good at every position.”