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Rounding up where major media outlets have Ryan Day ranked among best head coaches

IMG_7408by:Andy Backstrom05/14/24


COLUMBUS — Ryan Day is embarking on the most important year of his career. Day has the most talented Ohio State roster since at least 2019 at his finger tips. He retooled his staff, most notably bringing aboard his own mentor — former college and NFL head coach Chip Kelly — to serve as the Buckeyes’ offensive coordinator and play caller.

Plus, Ohio State returned 11 draft-eligible and starter-level players, not to mention a class of six scholarship transfers the Buckeyes reeled in this offseason.

Ohio State has a chance to be historically great in 2024. The Buckeyes won the first-ever College Football Playoff. Now, they are hoping to win the first-ever 12-team CFP.

The pressure is on for Day, who has fallen short of a national title his first five years at the helm. The bigger stain on his resume, however, is three consecutive losses to Michigan. Meanwhile, the Wolverines have gone on to win three Big Ten championships in a row, as well as last season’s national championship.

That’s why Day is lower on some head coaching lists, despite his 56-8 overall record and three CFP appearances. Lettermen Row is rounding up where major media outlets have Day ranked among the best coaches in college football ahead of the 2024 season.

The Sporting News (Bill Bender)

Where Bender has Day ranked: 4th

“Let’s not twist this too much. Day has a .875 winning percentage – which is the highest of any FBS coach with at least 50 victories. He has three CFP appearances and a CFP championship appearance. Of course, the three-game losing streak to Michigan has become the focus – one that led to an unprecedented response in the transfer portal for the Buckeyes this offseason. Day also hired mentor Chip Kelly to be his offensive coordinator. That’s a coaching move that could lead to Ohio State’s first national championship since 2014.”

Bill Bender, The Sporting News

Bender’s Top 10:

  1. Kirby Smart (Georgia)
  2. Dabo Swinney (Clemson)
  3. Kalen DeBoer (Alabama)
  4. Ryan Day (Ohio State)
  5. Brian Kelly (LSU)
  6. Steve Sarkisian (Texas)
  7. Kyle Whittingham (Utah)
  8. Mike Norvell (Florida State)
  9. Lincoln Riley (USC)
  10. Lane Kiffin (Ole Miss)

For Bender’s complete Top 25, go here.

The Athletic (Stewart Mandel)

Where Mandel has Day ranked: No. 7

“Normally a guy who’s taken his team to the CFP in three of his five seasons and is a staggering 39-3 in Big Ten play would be the no-brainer No. 2 guy on this list. But because those three losses have come the last three seasons to Michigan, the most important game on his team’s schedule, I can’t justify a top-5 ranking, even with his .875 winning percentage.”

Stewart Mandel, The Athletic

Mandel’s Top 10:

  1. Kirby Smart (Georgia)
  2. Lance Leipold (Kansas)
  3. Kalen DeBoer (Alabama)
  4. Mike Norvell (Florida State)
  5. Kyle Whittingham (Utah)
  6. Brian Kelly (LSU)
  7. Ryan Day (Ohio State)
  8. Dabo Swinney (Clemson)
  9. Mike Gundy (Oklahoma State)
  10. Jamey Chadwell (Liberty)

For Mandel’s Top 25, go here.

The Athletic (Bruce Feldman)

Where Feldman has Day ranked: No. 5

The Buckeyes are coming off a rough year by their sky-high standards. They had to replace C.J. Stroud and a pair of NFL offensive tackles but still started 11-0 with top-10 wins against Notre Dame and Penn State before losing a close one to Michigan and getting shut down by Missouri in the Cotton Bowl. Things are especially tense in Columbus now that Ohio State has lost three in a row to the hated Wolverines, but Day has the Buckeyes primed to make a national title run. The 44-year-old’s record is jaw-dropping: 56-8 and 39-3 in the Big Ten. He’s had three top-four finishes in the postseason AP poll. Last season was his worst as a head coach, and Ohio State still finished No. 10. Overall, he’s 18-8 against Top 25 opponents and 10-7 in top-10 games.

Bruce Feldman, The Athletic

Feldman’s Top 10:

  1. Kirby Smart (Georgia)
  2. Dabo Swinney (Clemson)
  3. Lance Leipold (Kansas)
  4. Kalen DeBoer (Alabama)
  5. Ryan Day (Ohio State)
  6. Brian Kelly (LSU)
  7. James Franklin (Penn State)
  8. Kyle Whittingham (Utah)
  9. Lincoln Riley (USC)
  10. Mike Norvell (Florida State)

For Feldman’s Top 25, go here.

ESPN (staff)

Where ESPN has Day ranked: 10th

“… Whether he can reverse the Buckeyes’ losing streak to the Wolverines, especially now that former Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is in the NFL, will go a long way in determining his future.

“Day’s offenses have been ranked in the top three in the FBS in scoring three times and in total offense four times. Yet the Buckeyes are only 2-4 in bowl games and haven’t won a Big Ten title since 2020. Turning over the offensive playcalling to former UCLA head coach Chip Kelly might be the recipe to getting OSU back on top in the expanded Big Ten.”

Mark Schlabach, ESPN

ESPN’s Top 10:

  1. Kirby Smart (Georgia)
  2. Kalen DeBoer (Alabama)
  3. Kyle Whittingham (Utah)
  4. Dabo Swinney (Clemson)
  5. Mike Norvell (Florida State)
  6. Dan Lanning (Oregon)
  7. Steve Sarkisian (Texas)
  8. Lane Kiffin (Ole Miss)
  9. Lance Leipold (Kansas)
  10. Ryan Day (Ohio State)

For ESPN’s Top 25, go here.

On3 (Jesse Simonton)

Where Simonton has Day ranked: 4th

“Day hasn’t beaten Michigan in three years, but he continues to win most all his other games (56-8 as a head coach) and sign Top 3 recruiting classes. He was a missed field goal away from likely winning a national championship in 2022, and the Buckeyes, who return the bulk of their Top 10 defense and have one of the best 2024 transfer portal hauls, will be top title contenders next season. 

“Because of the Wolverines’ recent run, Day faces more pressure than any head coach on this list, but he could erase a lot of doubt if he wins big next fall. He’s an excellent recruiter and a savvy offensive mind. Ceding play-calling duties and hiring Chip Kelly as Ohio State’s new OC was a bold decision that could be for the betterment of the program, too.

Jesse Simonton, On3

Simonton’s Top 10:

  1. Kirby Smart (Georgia)
  2. Brian Kelly (LSU)
  3. Kalen DeBoer (Alabama)
  4. Ryan Day (Ohio State)
  5. Steve Sarkisian (Texas)
  6. Dabo Swinney (Clemson)
  7. Mike Norvell (Florida State)
  8. Kyle Whittingham (Utah)
  9. Lincoln Riley (USC)
  10. Lane Kiffin (Ole Miss)

For Simonton’s Top 25, go here.


It’s weird not seeing Nick Saban at the top of these lists. His retirement, plus Jim Harbaugh’s departure for the NFL, adds an interesting wrinkle to the head coaching ranking exercise this offseason.

As for Day, it’s clear the cloud hanging over his 1-3 record against Michigan is the reason why he’s not top three, or even top five for some. This is a prove-it year for Day, who can get the monkey off his back with a win against the Wolverines and accomplish a whole lot more with a loaded roster, a favorable schedule — the Buckeyes have only four road games in the regular season — and potentially a first-round bye in the expanded CFP.

There’s a world in which Day slingshots up to No. 2 in these lists after this season. There’s also a world in which he’s clinging to the top 10, or even outside of it by this time next year.

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