The following column begins a 10-part series, wherein I (Connor O’Gara) outline 10 chaos scenarios for the 2024 college football season. These are not predictions. These are, however, things that could happen that would create a significant ripple effect in the sport.

What is chaos, you ask? Last year, Texas beating Alabama caused chaos because it was the preamble for Texas’ return to the national spotlight while the Tide had “sky is falling” energy that prompted a QB change and a discussion about Nick Saban’s future. Saban’s retirement was also chaos because it prompted 4 FBS coaching vacancies, as well as raises for coaches who were reportedly targeted as his successor.

Chaos can come in non-Saban ways, too. Florida State getting left out of the Playoff as a 13-0 team was chaos, as was Deion Sanders beating defending national title runner-up TCU in his Colorado debut. Chaos can come in a variety of forms.

Today is the first installment of the 10-part series for 2024 …

Every chaos conversation for the 2024 season should start with Ohio State. The Buckeyes are the ultimate agents of chaos.

We don’t know whether new athletic director Ross Bjork would be willing to agree to pay an estimated $36.7 million buyout for a coach who had nothing but top-10 finishes during his 5 years in Columbus. We do know that Bjork is the same guy who left for Ohio State shortly after he signed off on a $76 million buyout for Jimbo Fisher at Texas A&M.

We also know that this Ohio State team has the unique combination of elite returning, Draft-eligible players (Emeka Egbuka, Jack Sawyer, JT Tuimoloau, etc.) along with high-profile transfer additions (Walker Howard, Quinshon Judkins, Caleb Downs, etc.). Even after Day’s worst season to date — something that served as the preamble for that transfer portal spending — there’s a “title or bust” vibe in ways we rarely see in this sport. At least with any validity.

Maybe there’s some nuance there and it’s not as black and white as some might think. After all, it’s the 12-team Playoff era. Losing to Michigan for the 4th consecutive year could be followed by a national title. Alternatively, a blowout win against Michigan could be followed by a Round of 8 exit.

There could be several paths to this first chaos scenario. It exists.

So why start here? It’s not just that Day getting fired would create a post-Saban-retirement-like feeding frenzy with the 30-day transfer window wherein that roster could get picked apart, though that’s part of this. Teams with top-3 talent rarely are subjected to that.

But this is all about that vacancy. For my money, it’s as good of a vacancy as we’ve seen in the sport since Georgia fired Mark Richt at the end of the 2015 season. You could argue it’s even better because it’s in the Big Ten and not the SEC, which had 3 different teams win national titles in the last 5 seasons as opposed to the conference with 2 schools who won titles since the late-1960s (USC, Nebraska and Penn State won titles when they weren’t in the Big Ten).

You’re also not being tasked with ending a title drought that dates back a quarter century like Richt’s successor was at Georgia. You’re being tasked with beating Michigan, which Ohio State did with ease for nearly the entire 21st century until the 2020s. A Day successor can get credit for doing that even though Jim Harbaugh is off to the NFL and there could be a new Michigan standard.

Related: Looking to place a wager on the national champ in 2024? SDS has you covered with all the latest odds!

It’s a better hypothetical vacancy than Alabama because it isn’t replacing the greatest coach of all time; it’s replacing Day. If he’s fired, he’s “the guy who couldn’t win the big one.”

That’s why the Buckeyes figure to cast a net that’s far and wide. No, I wouldn’t be worried about that Day buyout preventing Ohio State from spending big. They haven’t had to pay one of these big coach buyouts in the 21st century. They could poach and afford to pay a hefty sum to another school if that’s what it takes.

I always reference how the SEC hasn’t had a head coach get poached for a job in another conference since James Franklin left Vanderbilt for Penn State at the end of the 2013 season. Ohio State would put that to the test. That list of candidates from the SEC alone could include the likes of Eli Drinkwitz, Lane Kiffin and Brian Kelly. Yes, Kelly. Ohio State would have a more attractive opening than Michigan, which never made sense for a Kelly destination.

Would I predict that Kelly would take that job? No, but would Ohio State target someone like him and inevitably get him a raise at LSU? Probably. Maybe the same is true of Kiffin, who worked wonders in the portal at Ole Miss. If Ohio State were to pursue him and it didn’t end with Kiffin taking it, I’m not sure there would be any jobs left that he’d leave Ole Miss for.

That list won’t stop there. Could Ohio State go back to current Wisconsin coach and former Buckeye nose guard/assistant/interim coach Luke Fickell? Or would that be too underwhelming to hire someone responsible for 1 of the 2 seasons in which Ohio State failed to earn an AP top-10 finish in the last 19 years? We don’t know, nor do we know if Marcus Freeman would leave Notre Dame and go back to his alma mater.

Perhaps Mike Norvell didn’t want to replace Saban at Alabama, but would he leave Florida State during its ACC lawsuit and replace Day at Ohio State? We can’t rule that out until Norvell rules that out.

As we just saw with Alabama, the Ohio State vacancy has the opportunity to get significant raises for top-level coaches while also poaching someone who would open up several other FBS jobs. We watched Arizona and San Jose State lose their respective coaches because of an Alabama opening. That’s chaos.

(The least chaotic scenario would be Ohio State hiring someone like idle Mike Vrabel. That move, while it would be applauded by many, would register the lowest possible score on the unofficial chaos meter if Day gets fired because he’s not leaving a team and causing a chain reaction.)

In a different way, Ohio State falling significantly short of a national title could actually reduce the chaos. An expensive roster that doesn’t put it all together could create some market correction with NIL. Alternatively, Ohio State winning a title could ramp up NIL spending even more. Perhaps quotes like Kelly’s about “buying players” will be scrutinized even more if the Buckeyes turn 2024 into a championship season.

But far more chaotic would be a titleless season that ends with Day getting the boot. If he can’t get off third base and score — I still can’t believe Harbaugh said that — then we’re talking about a 1-of-1 vacancy.

How’s that to kick off some chaos?

Chaos scenario No. 2 will continue tomorrow. To spoil all 10 chaos scenarios for yourself, watch the full breakdown, as discussed on The Saturday Down South Podcast.