There aren’t many similarities between Indiana’s Tom Allen and Ohio State’s Ryan Day.
Allen joined the college coaching ranks from his work at high schools, Day came from the NFL. Allen inherited the losingest program in all of FBS while Day was handed the reigns of a juggernaut and expected to contend for national titles.
But both were on their program’s staff prior to being promoted to head coach. On Saturday, for the first time as opposing head coaches, both held play sheets.
Day called plays against Indiana as Ohio State’s offensive coordinator in 2018 prior to Urban Meyer’s retirement and Day’s promotion to head coach. He retained play calling duties following the promotion, though Allen handed his defense to Kane Wommack. It was Wommack’s mastery and execution of Allen’s scheme that kept Indiana competitive against Ohio State in 2020.
Now, with Allen taking control of Indiana’s defense, the Hoosiers entered Columbus allowing a league-worst 32.2 points per game. It took the Buckeyes two quarters and change to exceed that.
The total stats? Day’s offense gained (and Allen’s defense allowed) 662 yards and eight touchdowns in Indiana’s 56-14 loss.
This season marks Day’s fourth at Ohio State. This is without question his team, shaped through the high school and transfer portal to his liking. The Buckeyes have won the Big Ten twice under Day’s watch.
Allen is in his sixth year at Indiana and is dangerously close to winning just one conference game in two seasons.
Ohio State’s sideline is filled to the brim with former highly-touted recruits, with their current counterparts scattered throughout the stadium. Indiana? Well, Allen has recruited some of the best classes in program history, but they just can’t compete with Ohio State.
None of this is meant to say that Indiana should be competitive with Ohio State. That is not possible and never will be. The standard for Allen is decidedly not Ohio State. The two programs have entirely different floors, ceilings and goals.
Each coach was handed a program, again one of the few things these two have in common. Allen was handed a team that could compete for bowl eligibility and managed to get to two with no wins. Day was handed a contender and asked to compete for titles.
Neither has climbed their program’s respective mountaintop, a national title for Ohio State and a bowl win for Indiana, just yet. They’ve each played for one, but Day is far, far closer to his goal than Allen.
When Ohio State’s defense began to deteriorate, Day flexed the Buckeyes’ otherworldly funding to hire the best defensive coordinator money could buy in Jim Knowles. When Indiana’s offensive line began to fall apart? Its coach remained on staff for a year and six games as the bottom fell out.
Ohio State did what needed to be done eventually and the Buckeyes are better off for it. Indiana let the problem become unfixable before making a move.
Aside from all the touchdowns, expectations, attention, recruits and *gestures at everything else*, the biggest difference between Allen and Day is that the latter has (mostly, for the Ohio State fans who may be reading this) gotten the program on track for a title. Allen is nowhere near a Big Ten win, let alone a bowl win.
The two have one last thing in common: each of their stadiums usually empty in the third and fourth quarters.
The reason why is, yet again, where they differ.