Every Tuesday, Matt Hayes tackles the 10 hottest topics in the Big Ten:

1. The B1G Story

This all began when Urban Meyer gave Ryan Day the ceremonial whistle to transition from one coach to another at Ohio State.

Here’s your ready-made program. Don’t screw it up.

But Day didn’t follow the plan. In fact, he went exactly opposite.

Instead of building from the inside out, he built from the outside in. And now he’s on the outside of the greatest rivalry in college football, face pressed against the glass and wondering where it all went so wrong.

It’s not a difficult answer: Build from the inside out.

Translation: Mega programs that win championships are built on the lines of scrimmage. Day focused on skill players.

Meanwhile, in Ann Arbor, Jim Harbaugh was doing what every coach who has built a championship on his own has done. Did at Stanford, did it with the 49ers in the NFL.

Everyone laughed when Harbaugh spoke of winning with “character and cruelty” at Stanford, and then again at Michigan. But it’s more than quirky alliteration. If recruited and developed properly, it’s devastatingly successful.

If done properly, it’s where fancy play-calling and scheming go to die.

Meyer dominated the Big Ten (and Michigan) because he turned Ohio State into an SEC program by recruiting from the inside out. The Bosa brothers, Chase Young, Sam Hubbard, Adolphus Washington and on and on.

In 7 years under Meyer, Ohio State had 6 All-American defensive linemen and 6 All-American offensive linemen.

In 4 seasons under Day, Ohio State has had 4 All-American offensive linemen and 1 All-American defensive lineman — all recruited by Meyer.

While Day could get his first recruited and developed line of scrimmage All-American this season — DE JT Tuimoloau — the inside-out process either never stuck or wasn’t the plan.

Either way, there’s a reason Michigan has dominated the lines of scrimmage in this game the past 2 seasons. A reason all of Ohio State’s elite skill players on offense haven’t impacted the game like they have every other.

When you can’t protect, decisions are quicker and riskier and come with complications. When you can’t consistently run block, you’re trailing 24-20 in the third quarter and staring at 4th-and-3 from midfield — a scenario that every other time against every other team meant try to convert — and you capitulate right then and there to who and what Harbaugh has built at Michigan.

You give up everything you stand for and punt.

2. Mentally, it’s Michigan

When Meyer and Jim Tressel were at Ohio State, when Buckeyes won 16 of 17 games in the rivalry, it was over before it began. It wasn’t just better players, though that was a crucial factor.

It was the mental game.

It was the idea that Ohio State knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that no matter the adversity on game day, they would be prepared to handle it. Then go execute and suffocate any glimmer of Michigan hope.

So when Michigan went down 10-3 early and Ohio State drove to the Michigan 37, the Wolverines did what they would do over and over (and what they did in last year’s game): The defense got off the field on 3rd (and 4th) down with pressure.

The 3rd-down play: a 3-yard run.

The 4th-down play: incomplete pass, forced by pressure.

Even after the Michigan offense went 3-and-out the following series, the defense responded with another 3rd-down stop — and everything snowballed from there.

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Michigan outscored Ohio State 42-13 from that point on, with a quarterback (JJ McCarthy) playing flawlessly in his first start in The Game, and a backup tailback (Donovan Edwards) rushing for 216 yards — after injured Heisman Trophy candidate Blake Corum tried but couldn’t go.

Want to see the true change in The Game, and how the game is won on the lines of scrimmage? Michigan had 151 yards rushing before contact.

Before contact.

Ohio State had every mental advantage going into the game. Dominating the series for 2 decades, an elite offense, a rebuilt defense with a new, multi-million dollar defensive coordinator and the motivation of Harbaugh’s classic dig: “Some people are born on third base and think they hit a triple.”

The Buckeyes pointed all season to The Game, so much more than previous years. They could sense the sweet symphony of revenge in front of 105,000 at Ohio Stadium.

And Michigan took it all away. The streak, the confidence, the attitude.

Ohio State was left standing on third base.

3. Big Blue World, The Epilogue

There’s only 1 thing left now, 1 opportunity for Michigan to complete the metamorphosis from underachiever to national champion.

It took Tressel 2 years to win it all, and Meyer 3 years (though he did have an unbeaten, NCAA-sanction season in 2012). Harbaugh maxed out at Stanford (Orange Bowl win) before leaving for the NFL and lost in the Super Bowl with the 49ers.

He has been close before as a coach, and nearly didn’t make it back to Ann Arbor. He interviewed with the Vikings at the end of last season, and for whatever reason (there are 2 sides to the story), what looked like a formality didn’t happen. So he returned to Michigan, fully committed to winning big.

Now here we are, and the Wolverines are in the Playoff for the 2nd straight year — no matter what happens in the Big Ten Championship Game against Purdue. Harbaugh returned, and it got better.

He has a more dangerous quarterback, the same SEC-level lines of scrimmage and a team brimming with confidence. McCarthy taunted Ohio State fans in Columbus by waving goodbye late in the game, and Harbaugh was asked if he was OK with players planting the Michigan flag on the block “O” at midfield.

While former Ohio State players complained on social media that they would never let Michigan do such a thing, and that the current Ohio State team was “soft” for allowing it to happen, Harbaugh kept moving forward like a train headed toward destiny.

“I want to get that flag,” Harbaugh said. “I want to get that flag and put it in our museum.”

4. The Day question

It’s ridiculous to think a coach who is 45-5 in 50 career games at 1 of the top 5 programs in college football is in trouble.

But Day has put himself in this position with his bravado early on at Ohio State, and the inability to back it up over the past 2 years. Remember when he once declared to his team that they were going to “hang a hundred” on Michigan because Harbaugh questioned Ohio State’s practice schedule on a Big Ten coaches conference call?

That was the COVID season, when the teams eventually didn’t play because Michigan canceled its season early. But the foundation was set with those words.

Like it or not, the “hang a hundred” claim left Ohio State with only one way to go in the rivalry: It had to beat Michigan like it never had before in 2021. It also instantly made the Buckeyes the villain.

Michigan has won the 2 games since, by a combined 87-50 — and Ohio State looks more lost than it has been since a guy named Cooper was pacing the sidelines in The Game.

John Cooper was infamously 2-10-1 vs. Michigan before he finally gave way to Tressel. Ohio State won’t allow Day to get much worse than his current record vs. Michigan of 1-2.

5. The Weekly 5

Five picks against the spread — special Championship Week Edition — brought to you by FanDuel:

  • Michigan (-16.5) vs. Purdue
  • Utah (+2.5) vs. USC
  • Kansas State vs. TCU (-2.5)
  • LSU vs. Georgia (-18.5)
  • Clemson (-7.5) vs. North Carolina

6. Your tape is your résumé

An NFL scout analyzes the prospect of a draft-eligible Bg Ten player. This week: Illinois RB Chase Brown.

“He’s not the biggest guy, and I don’t know how much of a pounding he could take. But I really like the way he plays the game. He doesn’t particularly pass-protect well, but when he runs, he does just about everything right. He finds creases, he hits the hole quickly and with explosion. He breaks tackles, he has some wiggle. He’s also a patient runner, he will wait for that crease — and bang, he hits it.

“He’ll be a late-round guy, but I won’t be surprised if he’s one of those guys who years from now, we’ll be shocked at how late he was selected.”

7. Powered Up

This week’s Power Poll and 1 big thing: top-rated NFL Draft prospect.

1. Michigan: OT Ryan Hayes (2nd/3rd round)

2. Ohio State: QB CJ Stroud (1st)

3. Penn State: CB Joey Porter Jr. (1st)

4. Purdue: WR Charlie Jones (5th/6th)

5. Minnesota: C John Michael Schmitz (2nd)

6. Illinois: CB Devon Witherspoon (2nd)

7. Wisconsin: DT Keeanu Benton (4th)

8. Maryland: OT Jaelyn Duncan (3rd)

9. Iowa: LB Jack Campbell (2nd/3rd)

10. Michigan State: LB Jacoby Windmon (3rd/4th)

11. Nebraska: OT Turner Corcoran (3rd)

12. Rutgers: S Avery Young (4th/5th)

13. Indiana: CB Tiawan Mullen (6th)

14. Northwestern: OT Peter Skoronski (1st)

8. Ask and you shall receive

Matt: With all these college football coaches walking out on their employers and contracts, I was wondering why none of the colleges/universities ever hold them to their deals? — Chad Ruffner.


All of the deals include buyout clauses, and when coaches leave schools, either they pay the buyouts or their new school does as part of the package.

To the larger point of your question: Universities wouldn’t hold them to their contracts even if they could. Why would any university force a coach to be there if he doesn’t want to? That has disaster written all over it.

While coaches have the upper hand when it comes to movement by their choice, the turnover in the business is getting worse by the season. The days of getting 4 or more years to build a program are long gone. We’re down to probably 2-3 years to build before universities are moving along and finding the next coach.

The coaches wanted an increased salary structure, but with that comes less security. Auburn tried to fire Bryan Harsin after his first season. All coaches understand that they’re hired to be fired — so why not get the most that you can, while you can.

9. Numbers

4. Purdue has played 4 games under coach Jeff Brohm against Big Ten teams ranked in the top 5 — and is 3-1. The Boilermakers have wins over No. 2 Ohio State in 2018, at No. 2 Iowa in 2021, and No. 3 Michigan State in 2021.

The average margin of victory in those games — all where Purdue was a double-digit underdog — was 19 points. The only loss for the Boilermakers was at Ohio State in 2021, where they lost by 4 touchdowns.

10. Quote to note

Minnesota coach PJ Fleck: “I still remember people, Heather (Fleck) and I, every time they’d see us, just beat Wisconsin you could stay forever. Beat Wisconsin and you can stay forever. Well, we beat Wisconsin twice in a row, and you wanted me to be fired last week. So that’s how that goes.”