THE SITUATIONAL: Everybody Knows

By Ramzy Nasrallah on December 27, 2023 at 1:15 pm
Lorenzo Styles and Sonny Styles

Ohio State last played a football game in Ann Arbor back on Nov 25.

Christmas ended up coming a month early for the home team as the visitors lost by six points, a margin delivered early on via the type of devastating nightmare turnover which plays in syndication for decades. It’s only been a month.

The reward for losing this game in 2021 was a Rose Bowl trip, the best consolation prize in the college football catalog. Last year the Buckeyes tumbled up the CFP rankings into a matchup with the defending champs which their coach said they deserved to win. They lost.

This year, a non-premium consolation prize. The 2023 Buckeyes will conclude their season like the 2017 edition did in Jerry World, playing for a trophy it already has but would only be chasing in a year where Arlington was on a path to the national title.

But it's fine. The New Year's Six bowls - clever marketing for The Losers' Bracket - is still premium-grade college football no matter which players opt in or out. The Buckeyes did no worse than NY6 in the CFP's first decade, and starting next season that entire Losers' Bracket gets a playoff invitation.

That means this current feeling will be, graciously, hard to come by starting next year. Missing a 12-team playoff will require significant program atrophy; a one-loss Ohio State team will be a lock, a two-loss Ohio State team will still be in great shape and even a three-loss Ohio State team should still be in the conversation, depending on the nature of those three Ls.

Outside of the nuked Tatgate season, the Buckeyes have suffered three losses in a season - inclusive of postseason games - just twice over two decades, which means on the established trajectory Ohio State makes the new expanded playoff over 90% of the time.

But that's the future. Simmering in the consequences of losing The Game again and again and again is our present and Michigan’s early Christmas present. Last dance, let's get Situational.


didn't sell the RPO at all, just locked onto Marvin from the snap
Kyle McCord's sluggish 1st half performances did not cost the Buckeyes any games leading up to the final one in Ann Arbor.

Kyle McCord's final pass as an Ohio State Buckeye was caught by a Michigan Wolverine.

It was his 406th and final passing attempt for his now-former team. A little over a week later McCord abruptly entered the transfer portal, converting that interception into the cruel exclamation point a three-year journey toward becoming the first starting Ohio State quarterback in a dozen years who didn't scare anyone.

Nothing, including rivalry dominance, lasts forever - so the streak of Heisman candidates/offensive players of the year/Silver Football winners under center was bound to end. McCord - let's type this into existence - becomes what should be a blip in a decades-long progression of 1st round picks coming out of Columbus.

Being a serviceable quarterback in what's become a QB factory is a crime McCord could commit on nearly any other campus without absorbing charges. Statistically he was 1998 Joe Germaine, which in the contextual scheme of college football made him 25 years too late. College football was a whole different sport in its first millennium.

McCord's next college pass will be intended for a Syracuse teammate who would not be a candidate for Ohio State's 85-man roster.

McCord lost his place in the Ryan Day QB lineage in the margins, which is unfortunately how Day’s teams tend to lose their biggest football trials. His first throw against Michigan was an exceptionally-schemed 3rd down play designed to gut the Wolverines.

And it nearly did, except McCord's ball placement was low and behind Emeka Egbuka, who was unable to corral it in the seam. Maybe if Egbuka hadn't missed time nursing injuries he would have still had the rhythm and connectivity with his quarterback that was on display at Notre Dame. Perhaps the whole game looks different if that one forgotten sequence - it doesn't show up in any of the highlight packages - goes McCord's way.

Unfortunately, he was three years into the system and 11 games into the season. An Ohio State quarterback has to make that throw, and if we learned anything about McCord in 2023 it's that he often needs a half of missing those throws to start making them.

thank god for bourbon
1997: An even worse GIF than the one above. 

His second pass was a checkdown to TreVeyon Henderson and his third was a screen to Xavier Johnson. McCord's head coach, position coach and play caller (these are all the same person, which is an entirely different issue) knew their third-year five-star QB needs safe completions to accelerate his slow starts and shaky confidence.

McCord's fourth pass is what you quickly scrolled past to reach these words. A tepid attempt - that’s being nice, it was negligent - at selling an RPO while laser-locked onto his high school teammate before throwing the most interceptable ball seen in this game since the two Stanley Jackson gift-wrapped while ceding the margin of victory, the Heisman and the Rose Bowl to Michigan with Germaine stuck on Ohio State's sideline.

McCord threw a ball that could not be thrown under any circumstance, especially after telegraphing his intentions to 110,615 people and both teams. Sure, Marv could have made more of an attempt to put some concealer on McCord's latest blemish. His position group was leaned on all year for this task, especially over the first 30 minutes each Saturday.

We'll have the whole offseason to torture ourselves with how that game played out, where Day conspicuously dialed down his aggression and replaced precision routes with the 50/50 ones Brian Hartline's room is talented enough to win on a curve. Marv caught one of them while wearing a defender. The offense Day expected to be running in Game 12 wasn’t quite as available as he had hoped.

But as for Ohio State's next game and first without McCord - it's a lose-lose scenario. Devin Brown emerging as the playmaker he was purported to be back when he lost the QB competition (largely due to his chronic inability to hit a crossing route, ugh the irony) cements 2023 as yet another what-could-have-been chapter, eerily scented like the 1997 one which kept McCord's statistical analog on the bench.

But if he’s more shaky than dominant, this might become about the state of the Ohio State QB room, which two seasons prior to Day's arrival featured three Heisman candidates at the same time and one season after he took over the room - two eventual Heisman finalists.

This would be a merely serviceable QB room. That’s a crime in this era of Ohio State football.

It could force the festering issue of Day holding down three incredibly taxing roles simultaneously, which has impacted everything from player development to play calling to game management. A head coach with only one job would have had the attention span surplus to challenge a couple of the calls that went Michigan's way, including that third McCord throw - which was marked short of a 1st down and should have been revisited by the booth.

His next college pass will be intended for a Syracuse teammate who would not be a candidate for Ohio State's 85-man roster in his teenage or twenty-something lifetime. McCord is running toward an objective downgrade in competition so that he won't have to compete for what he just had. He’s absolved us of having to debate his OSU legacy.

His Columbus experience has left him serviceable. The program he’s joined should be thrillled.


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.

I was introduced to Leonard Cohen through the Pump Up the Volume soundtrack, a revelation which confirmed for me the importance of good writing and composition - two cherished pillars of language arts I proudly dismantle and defile Wednesday afternoons on this web site. I don’t just like run-on sentences and comma splices, I love them.

Prior to seeing that movie and discovering Cohen, I had explained Bob Dylan to myself as an anomaly. Dylan Theory (it's been given dumber names, like common sense) states the music you hold most dear attached itself to your soul because of how old you were when you first consumed it.

Dylan is a terrific writer and composer, but replace his vocals with two donkeys fornicating and his music still sounds the same. Cohen's voice is simultaneously haunting and comforting as he talks through his songs like William Shatner but without trying to be funny. The technical term is crooning.

I convinced myself for a few years this was baritone privilege, but then the band Cake was formed and they cranked out excellent album after excellent album with no singing whatsoever - and they don’t croon either. The common thread is magisterial songwriting and composition.

If you have karaoke anxiety and don't have a low voice, just choose any Cake song. You're welcome. Everybody Knows features a mandolin solo. Let's answer our two questions.

Is the soloist in this video actually playing the mandolin?

That's John Bilezikjian, who passed away in 2015. We lost Cohen a year later. I made an editorial decision to use this 1988 live version instead of the submitted Live in Dublin one from 2014 because the solo arrangement strategy for the former was Let John Cook and this is a section about solos.

The latter transitioned the heavy lifting to an orchestra, with Cohen and Bilezikjian both near the end of their journeys. You rightfully prefer to remember legends at their peak. In 1988, John was absolutely playing the shit out of that mandolin. VERDICT: Yes, confirmed.

Does this mandolin solo slap?

Due to my acute condition of being chronically online, the word mandolin will always invoke the true story of Bruce Hornsby beating Allen Iverson in one-on-one. The idea of him talking trash with his own song lyrics (*bank-swish* oh Allen, listen to the mandolin rain baby!) slays me. Please remember to log off, you don't want this.

And yet the mandolin in Everybody Knows is good enough to distract from classic hoops fables. It’s the perfect complement to the most cynical ghost story ever told, by a man of impeccable words who chose chanting over chirping. 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.
Oola Waitsburg Bourbon. Horns Down.

Michigan is in the playoff for the third straight season, all via tickets punched at Ohio State's expense. If that's just too depressing to think about, simply turn your anxiety toward earth's ocean health where temperatures and salinity are both rising to levels we don't fully understand. See, I feel better already.

Michigan fans being sad is my kink, and they must lose to Alabama on New Year’s Day. I've only had two Alabama whiskeys - Clyde May and Dettling 1867 - and they’re both decent, but uninspired. The Yellowhammer State ranks in the high 40s in most non-football charts. Despite being so close to Tennessee and Kentucky, it still ranks behind the likes of New York for quality brown liquor.

One of those four CFP finalists has to win it all, so I'm pushing my emotional units toward the Huskies. Let’s crack open an Oola, distilled in Washington State.

Conference pride is a disease even when Michigan isn’t involved. This year’s CFP is an SEC-B1G invitational, which turns pulling for a conference into a mild, phlegmy cold. Washington first, Texas or Alabama next, Michigan under no circumstances. As Jason said to his grandfather Hermes in The Argonautica - fuck those guys forever.

If you're old enough to remember Cracker Jacks (like in the baseball song, I cannot remember the last time I saw a box in the wild) Oola gives off that kind of vibe. Very little ramp between the nose and finish, it's vanilla, toffee, caramel and pleasant heat. Enjoy while breathing a sigh of relief.


damon webb ends the 2017 Cotton Bowl one play into the 2nd quarter
Davon Hamilton's attempted punt block in 2018 did not go the way he intended it to.

The Cotton Bowl is the last game the 2023 Buckeyes will play. That's all it will be.

It is not a springboard, an opportunity for favorable momentum toward anything on next year's calendar - or some portal into some deeper, nuanced conclusion. If they lose to Missouri, it won’t be an anchor on the 2024 campaign either.

When the game ends on Friday night, the 2023 season will be over-over, as opposed to just being over as it was on November 25. This may feel condescending, like I'm telling you you're wrong about to believe the Cotton Bowl is somehow more than just a consolation prize for losing to Michigan and back-dooring the CFP.

I promise it’s not. I used to subscribe to the bowl games-as-trampolines theory too - as recently as this past offseason. This always made perfect sense to me, since the aftertaste from Ohio State's final football game is either minty or fecal. You’re going to taste it for eight full months. I do, too. That’s an us problem.

This past summer I asked Hartline about this common trampoline theory - from the Peach Bowl, a good loss, as a springboard into the 2023 season. We had seen the end of the jittery, puckery Michigan Game Coach Day, right? We all saw what him being the most aggressive version of his coaching self would product, right?

Hartline looked at me like I had three heads. This was his polite response.

"Every team has its own identity. Every season has its own identity. We're not going into (the 2023 season) referencing how we were last season. This team is going to be completely different. Georgia almost lost to Missouri before they played us. They didn't play their best football, but if you can win while playing 80% of your best, you're a good football team. That's the reality of college football.

When we walk into Indiana's stadium, we won't be referencing Georgia or anything from last year. We'll be looking to re-establish ourselves this year. Last year isn't a continuation into this year."

Georgia almost lost to Missouri in 2022. The Bulldogs beat the Tigers by four points in a comeback. This year they only won by nine. Hartline's tone suggested Missouri would have been a bad loss for Georgia. He's right. That means it would be a bad loss for Ohio State too.

That Peach Bowl performance was a blown national title shot off a second chance, and even though the offense was finally unleashed from a bizarre six-game lockdown, Ohio State's special teams and defensive performances were still unacceptable. One of those things got better in 2023. The Peach Bowl had nothing to do with that.

The 2017 Buckeyes finished their story in the Cotton Bowl, beating a decent Southern Cal team in a fashion that didn't erase the 55-24 Iowa City outing which put them there instead of the Final Four. Ohio State's two recent Rose Bowl teams both polished their second bookends nicely.

And that was it. Any carryover exists only in our heads and mouths. Hartline gets it.

The 2023 Buckeyes showed more promise than any of those previous teams, despite a shaky game manager under center and a defense that bent while rarely breaking any of its formidable opponents.

They should be able to beat Missouri on Friday no matter who puts on pads. And no matter what ends up happening in Arlington, that will be it - the 2023 Cotton Bowl can’t spring the 2024 Buckeyes in any direction. That’s a whole different team we haven’t met yet.

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

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