THE SITUATIONAL: Thank You For Smoking

By Ramzy Nasrallah on November 1, 2023 at 1:15 pm
davison igbinosun and jordan hancock

Ohio State has never had all three sides of the ball humming at once.

Not talking about for a quarter, a half or even a full game; we've been blessed with that innumerable times. I mean wire-to-wire for a whole-ass football season. A perfect season - not just a perfect record, a perfect season is a unicorn, and if you're holding out for one of those you're setting yourself up to resent the best time of year.

That's not how sports regularly work at any level. It's definitely not the way college kids operate.

Yet it's the prevailing standard for every Saturday. I've lived long enough to see two Ohio State national championship seasons along with no fewer than a half-dozen teams significantly better than those two were, and they either won smaller rings or jack shit.

That's how sports regularly work at every level, and it's definitely the way college kids operate.

The 1998 Buckeyes were the closest thing to a perfect wire-to-wire specimen I've ever been emotionally invested in on Saturdays. They faced five ranked opponents and beat the ever-loving shit out of all five of them. Peel back the yellowing layers of that season and you'll see 48 quarters of football, 41 of which Ohio State won or held serve. That includes garbage time quarters. That's absurd.

That team clocked 22 halves of football and lost exactly one - older people, you know which one. The one bad half that team ever produced, which should not have been possible. The Buckeyes were both bad and unlucky for one half and it cost them everything.

Younger people, there were no bad or missed calls to blame. Ohio State lost every 50/50 moment and puckered Its way to a loss. If you watched this year's Penn State game with an older person, you saw that 25-year old trauma re-awaken in the 3rd quarter - and hoooo buddy it was spooky.

WE ARE a three-yard pass on 3rd and 15
Three plays after Penn State snatched away momentum in a battle of undefeated teams, Ohio State snatched it right back.

I was spooked. My intrusive brain blurted out Nate Clements when that 3rd quarter punt hit Lorenzo Styles Jr.'s leg and the Nittany Lions recovered it, a carbon-copy of how that dreadful 1998 avalanche began. Basically the same punt-fumble on the same side of the field under eerily similar Ohio State is Cruising to a Win conditions.

Michigan State couldn't stop scoring while Ohio State suddenly couldn't do anything for the first and only time all season. A quarter-century later, after the Styles turnover Penn State netted zero yards for a 3-and-out and punted the ball back to the home team.

In a crisis, this year's enigma did what that year's Goliath could not. They were all set to go wire-to-wire and fumbled adversity with every advantage working for them. Only one opponent scored over 17 points on that team, and it was 6-6 Michigan State. The Buckeyes didn't win an outright conference title because of 17 lousy minutes.

So unlike most of us, I don't think about the 2002 team every time this year's edition survives another clunker. I think about 1998, which deserved much better but squandered it. The 2002 team went 14-0 with an agonizing 6-0 mark in clunkers - they were seasoned.

The 2014 team went 2-1 in clunkers en route to the CFP title. That 1998 team went 0-0.5 in clunkers - it didn't even have a full clunker. They were out of their element when one half got dicey.

This 2023 team seems to understand what it is, what it needs to become - and it appears to be getting the best conditioning for a stretch run among the contenders. It's not the unicorn team we wish to see, but that matters little. Destination is the same. Stop waiting for unicorns.

This week Ohio State is assigned to run its program record against Rutgers to 10-0 the surest way possible. Remember, it's not a trap if you call it out before kickoff. Let's get Situational.


Oct 28, 2023; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Kyle McCord (6) hands off to running back TreVeyon Henderson (32) during the second half of the NCAA football game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium. Ohio State won 24-10.
Kyle McCord hands off to TreVeyon Henderson Wisconsin game at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday..© Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Miyan Williams, the Buckeyes' feisty sledgehammer is now out for the year. He had 21 carries for 189 yards against Rutgers last season and then sat out injured for three weeks. He won't be available on Saturday or any other Saturdays this season.

TreVeyon Henderson went over 100 on just 14 carries in South Bend and then missed a month. He dominated the Badgers in his return to the field on Saturday. Last year he only appeared in eight games due to health.

Neither one of those guys is soft. They're both excellent and run with cruel intentions.

Denzel Burke is so good he only has nine tackles this season because teams go out of their way to avoid his side of the field. He missed a game nursing an injury suffered at Purdue. Grass field, can't blame field turf for that one.

It appears Kyle McCord needs a full half of football before his chronic ankle pain goes numb, and then he can set his feet properly to throw with confidence. His backup Devon Brown is injured and probably unavailable again this weekend, but who knows.

Lathan Ransom is out, probably. Emeka Egbuka...I have no idea, man. Does Ohio State have an injury-prone roster - again - or is it Saturday morning availability report obfuscation cloaking both load management and true maladies for what aspires to become a 15-game slog? Is it a little of both?

I have thought about this question every hour since mid-September 2022. Don't be me.

Day is an NFL coach accustomed to the journey the college football season has recently expanded itself into, and Ohio State's injury and load management practices sort of track with that. It oscillates between overuse of starters and chronic underuse in garbage time.

I understand why McCord was on the field to run out the Wisconsin game despite grimacing with every step. Sure, Tristan Gebbia or Lincoln Kienholz could have handed off instead, but that wasn't the point. Earlier in our programming:

This 2023 team seems to understand what it is, what it needs to become - and it appears to be getting the best conditioning for a stretch run among the contenders.

McCord's plant foot is not going to be 100% this season. You can see by the thickness of the tape wrapped around it on Saturday (gentle note to OSU trainers, wrap both limbs when one is injured - only wrapping one signals defenders which one to grab and twist). He won't be 100% until the spring game. Maybe.

He finished the game in Madison to prove the point. It was an exercise in toughness.

The Buckeyes are planning and playing toward a 15-game season. Load management, obfuscation, callousing vital starters like McCord, seasoning depth and precision substitution for the playable wounded are all on the menu. I don't have the right to know why the coaching staff operates this way. I'm just not disciplined enough to accept it.

A great deal of effort goes into concealing the players Ohio State's opponents need to prepare for on Saturday. Now they just need to apply the same level of secrecy to their play calls.


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.

Somehow Tedeschi Trucks Band is the first married couple-group to grace this section in 11 years, with the White Stripes (now divorced) the only other participant. Fleetwood Mac songs have never appeared in a Situational and will never be featured here.

It's not because they aren't one of the greatest bands in music history, genre-agnostic. It's not because the songwriting and execution weren't in the top 1% of all human recordings.

It's because of this Skull Session written by my mediocre and beloved son, former 11W writer DJ Byrnes. Let's scoot to the link dump at the end of the article:

stand back stand back stand back

Younger readers: This is Stevie Nicks. Not a man.

I read that passage through one bloodshot eye early in the morning and nearly fell out of bed laughing. I'm not much of a comments guy, but I knew they wouldn't let me down. Reader, I was not disappointed, they were all marvelous - but one stood above the rest:

DJ's mom

I couldn't breathe normally again until noon. Nothing I compose could ever top how Fleetwood Mac was showcased that morning, so I will not attempt it. That's how much I respect the band and DJ's mom.

Tedeshchi Trucks Band is a contemporary and indispensable blues rock ensemble led by Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks. Midnight in Harlem features a bluesy guitar solo. Let's answer our two questions.

Is the soloist in this video actually playing the guitar?

That's Susan's inferior half Derek on electric guitar, and this reader submission cut through all of the normal investigative work by supplying a live performance video. Less for me to do, sweet. VERDICT: Yes, Derek is playing the guitar.

Does this guitar solo slap?

This entire song bangs, but if you would like to mainline one of the better modern blues guitar solos you'll ever hear in your life, skip to 4:14 and let it ride. As for the song title, I've been in Harlem at midnight once in my life. It was after seeing Weird Al play an acoustic show at the Apollo. The quintessential late-night Harlem experience.

Don't tell me otherwise - I don't want to know. Only DJ's mom can judge me. 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.
Stellum Black. Pungent and powerful.

My exposure to and interaction with Ohio State fans over the years has informed me that most of you loathe noon kickoffs. Ryan Day doesn't seem to care for them either. You gotta wake up and fight, immediately. The players, too.

Here's where I incriminate myself: I love noon games. I love 3:30pm games. I love night games. The early ones allow for a full afternoon of college football indulgence with the Buckeye anxiety behind me while the sun is still up.

The 3:30pm kicks split the best Saturdays on the calendar down the middle. And the night bangers provide a full day of festivities and nerves. I don't have trouble waking up early and staying up late if college football is involved.

That said, I'll be in Las Vegas for my oppressive day job this weekend which means the Buckeyes are kicking off at 9am local time, shout out to the hardy Pacific Timezone readers among you. That calls for something indulgent, powerful and from a reputable source.

And in the least shocking news to regulars here, I'm pumping the Barrell distillery again - the Situational Distillery of Year back in 2022. Stellum Black is $100 blend of premium juices clocking in at north of 109 proof - hello, good morning, beat Rutgers.

Stellum doesn't disclose the age but if pressed I'd place the blend at 4-6 years on average. Allspice, oak, almond extract and a little citrus along with a lot of heat. An ice cube loosens it up so you can taste more of it. Wakey wakey.


Oct 28, 2023; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. (18) catches a pass to score a touchdown as Wisconsin Badgers cornerback Nyzier Fourqurean (10) defends during the third quarter at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Marvin Harrison Jr. catches a touchdown over Wisconsin DB Nyzier Fourqurean at Camp Randall Stadium. ©Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The second-biggest mismatch in Piscataway this Saturday will be on special teams. Like most programs, Rutgers does not have a dedicated ST coordinator, but it's coming off a bye and Greg Schiano is notorious for getting into his gadget bag.

As you've read on this site, discussed among your friends and seen with your eyes - Ohio State has a dedicated coordinator for special teams and it has not been a good investment. The Buckeyes do absolutely nothing consistently well on the side of the ball.

But the biggest mismatch this Saturday will be the same one Ohio State brings into every one of its games this season. It's Marvin Harrison Jr. vs. Whomever and Whatever.

While the disastrous back half of the 2022 season was defined by the Buckeyes getting excruciatingly cute in the slow march to the Michigan game, this one has been the opposite - Ohio State is pressing all of the right buttons and targeting its best weapons to cheat legally through superior talent. All that's missing is the execution.

Yes, that's the go-to copout used by underperforming coaches, but with this team the play calling has evolved into the championship realm. Those boundary runs to nowhere from the first half of the season have been replaced by novel stacks of plays that build off each other and confuse defenses that were too ethical to record Ohio State's sideline in every one of its previous games to decode all of its different play calling packages.

And if this new line and QB hold up their end, the Buckeyes' big mismatch will win the Heisman.

marv is like please kyle please throw it to me I'm open
One step up into the pocket and a throw downfield likely means a Harrison touchdown down the seam.

This should have been a 33-yard touchdown pass to Harrison. See him waving? Hi Kyle!

The somewhat frequent combination of Ohio State's right tackle getting beat around the edge and a quarterback who can't or doesn't step up in the pocket to release the ball toward his best alien's general direction turned this scoring play into a sack.

That's as fixable as it is a known trait of this wobbly offense, Day's weakest one to date. And strangely, its wobbliness might just be what vaults Harrison not only to New York, but to the podium.

Because it's clear he's The Guy who keeps the Buckeye offense going in the right direction, with a green offensive line, a revolving cast of banged-up running backs and a gimpy quarterback still trying to find his confidence, at least for one half.

MHJ is doing this with that and his team owns the two best wins in the country heading into November. The division, the conference title game participants and the Heisman Trophy will all be decided this month.

Harrison has no one in front of him for that award in part because of the guys he has behind him.

Thanks for getting Situational today. Go Bucks. Beat Rutgers.

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