Ohio State embracing the notion that "few people give us a chance" to defeat Georgia as Peach Bowl prep resumes in Atlanta

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The work is done in Colombo.

Ohio State has arrived in Atlanta to continue Peach Bowl preparations for the five days leading up to Saturday’s all-important College Football Playoff semifinal matchup with defending national champion Georgia on New Year’s Eve.

The Buckeyes rallied again in the South after dispersing across the country for a brief holiday, but make no mistake, Ohio State worked hard at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center before then. Ryan Day said the Buckeyes coached six of the seven days leading up to the break, and the Ohio State coach liked what he saw.

Day said the Buckeyes understand exactly what lies ahead and how difficult it will be to get an upset victory in the Bulldogs’ backyard.

“Well, I see a team that realizes that not many people give us a chance and that they played too hard in training or prepared too much in training. I think there’s a good look in our guys’ eyes,” Day said during Wednesday’s press conference. “We’re going to give them a few days off for Christmas here and then we’re going back to Atlanta. But we know what we’re getting into, we know what the challenge is and we’ve been working really hard for it.”

Ohio State may have the toughest draw of the four-team tournament in the first round, but it’s clear the Buckeyes were in no position to argue for a better CFP berth after losing the regular season finale and not having the chance. to win the Big Ten. But a matchup with the No. 1 team in the nation allows Ohio State to adopt a mindset it hasn’t necessarily had all year.

An underdog.

Dan Hope wrote on Dec. 11 that it’s not a role Ohio State has played often in recent years — just three times under Day and not since 2020 — but Day said in his post-CFP selection press conference that “I kinda like being this role.” Day also knows that it means nothing if the Buckeyes don’t “do something with it”.

However, at least one Buckeye feels that Ohio State already carried a chip on its shoulder all season.

“Favourites and all, I feel like it doesn’t really matter to anybody. No one really looks into it. We’re just worried about winning the game,” starting defensive tackle Taron Vincent said on Dec. 14. “I mean, it’s cool to be the underdog, but I feel like we’ve been us all year even though we’re winning. People still have something to say.”

But this game is not just another date on the agenda. It’s a totally different challenge. This time around, Ohio State is expected to lose, and even if that takes some level of pressure off the Buckeyes, it won’t do much to negate the disappointment that will be felt both inside the program and outside if Ohio State falls short. .

Tanner McCalister wouldn’t have it any other way. Oklahoma State’s transfer security wanted the highest stakes possible when he came to Columbus for his final season of college football earlier in the year, and now he finds himself on the same stage he’s always dreamed of.

“There’s definitely pressure, definitely intensity, but as a player, that’s what you play for,” McCalister said. “I mean, you’re at Ohio State, you’re going to have pressure, you’re going to have all of that. That’s 105,000 across all games. But that’s what you play for. I mean, that’s what I came here for. That’s what everyone came here for. So it’s no big deal.”

McCalister isn’t the only Buckeye who hasn’t played a CFP game yet. This year’s Buckeye team is filled with sophomore contributors who weren’t even on the roster when Ohio State raced to an appearance in the 2020 national championship game. Even CJ Stroud, who was on the field in that loss to Alabama in Miami yet to get a snap in a CFP game.

“You have to go into this game with a different attitude, man. You have to be really prepared to fight for four quarters, like every game. And I think we understand that after what happened in our last game of the regular season.”-Tanner McCalister

But while the scenario is very different, Ohio State’s latest appearance on the football field may be the best preparation they could have received. After all, Michigan is in the field of four, and McCalister even thinks the Bulldogs and Wolverines have a similar style of play.

“Both very good teams, obviously they are in the top four, I think it’s one and two. And they play alike, man. You need to be strong when you play against teams like that,” said McCalister. “You have to go into this game with a different attitude, man. You have to be really prepared to fight for four quarters, like every game. And I think we understand that after what happened in our last game of the regular season. And we understand that we have to be a four-quarter team, and every play, you never know which play is going to really determine the game. So I think going into this game, man, with this second chance, this second lease on life, we really do have a different perspective on how we arrived as the Buckeyes.

Without the bad blood and animosity of a Michigan game, Buckeye players were even more effusive in their praise of the Bulldogs, which will be Ohio State’s second consecutive contest against one of the top two teams in the country.

“I just think they are tough players. And I respect that they continue to work hard,” said Paris Johnson Jr. “I feel like sometimes you see people on tapes that show flashes of greatness, but sometimes they have a tendency to be a little lazy here and there. Watching their players this season, I feel they don’t have that, and I respect that from our opponents, that they have the will to go on. And so I’m definitely excited to face them and I respect them as an opponent.

There must be many differences from the Xs and Os. Still, there’s little doubt that the physicality and talent Georgia brings to the table should match — if not surpass — Michigan’s. Given that the Buckeyes still have championship hardware to contend with at the end of the season, that’s what they should expect from any matchup.

“This is college football. Everyone wants to see the good in the good. Nobody wants to see these games,” said Vincent. “Everybody wants to see the best play the best, and I think that’s what we’re going to achieve.”