By Ramzy Nasrallah on August 24, 2023 at 1:15 pm
Oct 29, 2022; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes safety Josh Proctor (41) high fives linebacker C.J. Hicks (11) on a kickoff during the fourth quarter of the NCAA Division I football game against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Cairns-The Columbus Dispatch Ncaa Football Ohio State Buckeyes At Penn State Nittany Lions
© Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Ohio State’s defense has not been good enough for awhile.

Last year just fine would have claimed the most recent CFP. Okay would have sufficed, but buried deep in the pile of unprescribed medicine from 2022 is one valuable lesson I’ll take personally: Lowering expectations makes losers of us all.

That defense was trending toward just fine for a significant portion of the 10 games which preceded untimely slips, painful fractures, curious substitution patterns, misplaced aggression, unfortunate calls, missed assignments and an overthinking outbreak which spread to both sides of the ball, devouring every bit of the margin for error afforded by Ohio State’s talent advantage.

Ultimately, the Buckeye offense can still err and punish opponents - this defense should aspire to attain such a lofty standard again. Okayest is loser talk now, according to the guy who coined it. This defense needs to sell tickets again. Every season. Not just once.

Ohio State is going to beat Indiana by a lot of points next weekend and we’ll learn nothing about the unit that stood between the program and the past two CFP runs. No actionable intel will be gleaned from the Youngstown State performance either. September lessons are a fool’s tutorial.

Western Kentucky could be interesting because as Confucius often said to his postal carrier, any opponent that slings it brings it. Especially one facing OIA (that’s Okayest in America) with nothing to lose in Columbus except a football game most won’t remember.

It has to be different this time. Let’s not consider a world where it isn’t. Let’s get Situational.


man fuck this
Michael Hall Jr. reacts to a pass interference flag in the Michigan endzone during the 2nd half of the 2022 game.© Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch/USA Today Network

Cooper Era Conditioning™ is coursing throughout the bodies of Ohio millennials and their elders.

It’s that nervous November gelatin which squatted between our ears throughout the 1990s, reemerging following decades of dormancy in our marrow. Broken feelings from an era where the more talented team lost its rivalry game more often than it didn’t, with a hefty assist from its own sideline and locker room.

Sometimes the culprit was the offense. Other times, defense. Michigan even got a couple of Heisman trophies out of the state of Ohio courtesy of the Buckeyes getting cute with special teams (so forgive me for not making peace with last year’s fake punt just yet, JFC just be the best version of yourselves).

What’s different this time is the weakest offense Ohio State trots onto the field outpaces the best ones we saw back then, even when Walt Harris was involved. It just has to stay out of its own damn way. Meanwhile and probably more importantly, the defense needs to stay in front of Michigan’s.

It’s bigger than not wanting to provide the Wolverines with a fucking century’s worth of legendary plays in Ohio Stadium over the course of one afternoon. Breathing, mindfulness, pacification. Pause. Okay, I’m back. That opportunity is still three months away.

Despite RELENTLESS EDITS from losers in every generation, history is still written by winners.

Cooper Era Conditioning™ is a joyless syndrome which can be treated by enjoying the unit when it’s facing not-Michigan throughout the regular season. It should not be allowed to flare up during the Saturdays between Bloomington and Ann Arbor. Those only get to be savored once. We remember the bookends more than the books.

The flyover games will only contribute marginally to the history written when this is all over in 100 days. Despite the relentless edits from losers in every generation, history is still written by winners. Two seasons away from writing the B1G chronicles have been plenty. Michigan’s rightful place is in the dead poets’ society.

If not for these past two (three, really) seasons, what this defense is returning in 2023 might rival its most hyped predecessors. The 2020 drop-off was shocking, but so was everything about that whole year. Then, 2021 was disappointing. And the way 2022 ended was comprehensively unacceptable, despite a new coordinator breaking in a new strategy.

This unit has depth, talent, anger, urgency, competency and scheme familiarity. Nothing is missing for a title run as of Game Zero. Nothing. All they have to do now is prove it to themselves.

We’ll be happy to watch. Here’s to this being the first of many seasons where we can’t look away when the Buckeyes don’t have the ball and it’s cold outside.


The Solo

CONTENT NOTE: This season Situational enthusiasts are controlling the Intermission jukebox, and as is the case in your local tavern - nobody knows who's choosing the songs. You have the right to get mad. If this goes off the rails, good.

Consider a world where Milli Vanilli never happened. That distant, imaginary planet is short several lionized bops forever tarnished by a lip-syncing scandal. We’re robbed of the synthetic majesty created by two mysterious French (they were French, right?) dudes merging New Jack Swing and Europop. Let’s be honest, our world is better.

In that distant and imaginary world, the Indigo Girls win the Best New Artist Grammy in 1989. In ours, Amy and Emily finished second behind Rob and Fab, but once the letter’s scheme was revealed the Grammys rescinded the honor and the Best New Artist award of 1989 remains unawarded today.

I wish I could tell you Reggie Bush was born the day the Grammys vacated the Vanilli Trophy, but he was four years old at the time and irony never had a chance. The first track of the Girls’ self-titled album that year was Closer to Fine.

If you’re young, you’ll recognize this as the banger playing throughout the Barbie movie. It features a tin whistle solo. Let's answer our two questions.

Is the tin whistle player in this video actually playing the tin whistle?

That's Fiachna Ó Braonáin from Hothouse Flowers on the whistle. What a name. Can we assume he's Irish? Does he know Bono? Did he emerge from the womb already fluent in tin whistling? Listen, my wokelahoman readers - you only think I’m engaging in crude stereotyping. Except the answers to all of these questions is yes, including the womb part, probably. VERDICT: Tá, sé ag imirt

Does this tin whistle solo slap?

My hottest Indigo Girls take is that Swamp Ophelia was the best American folk record of the 1990s. Don’t fight me on this, I put more thought into that than any Ohio State blog I’ve ever written.

Fianchna delivered the third-best tin whistle performance of the decade, behind Lick the Tins’ Can’t Help Falling in Love with You epic cover and Poi Dog Pondering’s Living with the Dreaming Body. Again, I’m not entertaining debate on this. My imaginary doctorate in 80s solos allows me to create music facts.

Milli Vanilli was good for a minute, but the Indigo Girls have been great ever since. VERDICT: Slaps

hey kids looks what's back in stock in all sizes

The Bourbon

There is a bourbon for every situation. Sometimes the spirits and the events overlap, which means that where bourbon is concerned there can be more than one worthy choice.

Panty melter. You're welcome.
Barrell Vantage. New boss is the same as the old one.

The first thing regulars will notice is yet another Barrell edition receiving a Situational Bourbon designation, which is like having four no.1 seeds in your March Madness bracket. Super lame, but difficult to reject.

Second, the bottle with a big ol’ dent in it. Was it an old purchase? It was brand new, actually. Folks, I slipped. Took a bad angle. Missed a tackle and allowed a 138-yard touchdown worth 19 points. I inserted my whole body into this bottle before realizing oh shit this is technically work and I’m supposed to GIF it before I finish it.

Barrell was the 2022 Situational Distillery of the Year and we didn't even get out of the season preview before it showed up again in 2023 - and spoiler, it won't be the last time. The Seagrass is still my favorite. Vantage might be the new runner-up, but there’s still time and Barrell is so good at e v e r y t h i n g that I doubt they’ll stop making super juice.

Vantage is a blend of Barrell bourbons finished in Mizunara, French and Toasted American Oak together. You need nose, flavor and finish profiles? S’Mores. Vantage is liquid s’mores from sniff to swallow.

It’s the choice this week because Vantage is Advantage without…a D. Please be good, silver bullets.


Then-Syracuse safety Ja'Had Carter makes a tackle against Pitt last season. Carter transferred to OSU in January. © Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Ja’Had Carter still had a black stripe when I began writing this column. That concerned me.

I asked the younger and smarter guys in 11W Slack (so, everyone) why that was the case. The Peach Bowl denouement was still fresh when Ryan Day signed the top safety in the portal out of Syracuse and by the end of the month, Ole Miss’ Davison Igbinosun - the best available talent in the portal at any position - joined Carter in the OSU secondary.

This was conspicuous. It wasn’t quite Urban Meyer leaving Tim Beck and Ed Warinner on the tarmac at Sky Harbor after the 2016 CFP Semifinal, but it’s in that overt messaging realm. BIA got a much-needed CAPA before February arrived. That’s operating with urgency.

Iggy lost his black stripe not even two months later. Carter still had his in August, as every single other portal guy who followed him to town had shed theirs. Ugh. I needed to know why.

Ja’Had is going to be just fine

Banged up gave me 2022 PTSD. Was he hurt, hurt or “hurt?” Those are three different conditions.

Covid turned every Ohio State status report into a scrambled charade rife for conspiracy. Mercifully, there’s no preview for How OSU Coaches Handle Status Reports, Injuries, Special Teams, Mike Hall’s Playing Time or Quarterbacks Running the Ball because I spent the better part of the past eight months juicing my feelings about all of that.

Carter choosing Ohio State while the unwatched Peach Bowl was still atop my DVR list hit like Xanax-infused aloe. Kerry Combs is nowhere near that room anymore but its condition was still rancid at the moments when it needed to be April Fresh. My team’s secondary seems to have a multi-year fetish for allowing big plays in big games. Uncle, enough.

Help was on the way, and help’s name was Ja’Had Carter - a kid with the same shoe closet and taste as Marvin Harrison Jr.

Help was on the way, and help’s name was Ja’Had Carter, a kid with the same shoe closet and taste as Marvin Harrison Jr. Watched the tape; loved the tape. Not since Tyvis Powell verballed to Ohio State mere hours after Jim Tressel resigned has a commitment been so soothing.

So I needed Ja’Had to be good, and not just for football reasons. This whole exercise of thinking about this sport 365 days a year stopped being about football right around the time I was allowed to go to the men’s room at Ohio Stadium by myself, without my dad accompanying me. It’s been a minute since this experience got, well, religious.

Religious texts are filled with great stories, and this one keeps writing new chapters. I savor a journey like the one Carter could be on this season from Upstate New York, which is where I was born. He could become what Justin Fields, Trey Sermon or Tanner McCalister planned on but could not - guys who showed up on a detour and went out on top.

Six others who jumped from the portal to Columbus after he did were officially Buckeyes. Carter still had his black stripe while I was uncorking the Vantage above, which forced me to consider a bittersweet future where BIA gets it done without him.

But by the time I got to this closing section to wrestle with writing this angle, Carter had canceled it along with his black stripe. He is officially a Buckeye now. Depth chart battles are taking place all over the roster - most prominently under center - and hey, may the best guy win and stay healthy.

Except for one. I’ve got a bias for the guy who will start at what we now call The Adjuster. I’m pulling for Ja’Had - the first guy in and the last stripe off. I’d like to see that story play out. Here’s to him completing the journey and lifting that unit out of its big game abyss.

Thanks for getting Situational today. Go Bucks. Next week we’ll be previewing a football game (!)

Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka are poised for big 2023s for Ohio State
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