Skull Session: Offensive Improvements, Alabama (-7.5) vs. Ohio State, and Nobody Wants to Go to the Big Ten Championship

By D.J. Byrnes on December 1, 2016 at 4:59 am
Mike Weber throws a stiff arm for the December 1st 2016 Skull Session.

Bad news for my enemies: I made it into December, which officially opens Swagittarius season.

You might say, "But doesn't Swagittarius season open Nov. 21?" Only in the apocryphal astrology books. We don't play that fake Swagittarius stuff around here.


 OFFENSIVE IMPROVEMENTS. As assistant to the offensive coordinator, I'll be the first to admit: Ohio State's offense hasn't fired on all cylinders this season during large swaths of play. In fact, it's been downright stagnant against top competition (save for Oklahoma, which somehow climbed back into the Top 10 without a defense). 

So who's at fault? What's the fix?


“Our offensive architects owe these kids better,” the source said. “(Michigan) was playing pitch and catch with simple, high percentage completion throws for three quarters, and have taught (Wilton) Speight to throw with good anticipation.

“J.T. (Barrett) can do that and more with better instruction, period. Passing route tree and QB instruction have a lot of room for growth before playoff.

“My Christmas wish: Urban (Meyer), remember when you covered the Bama vs Notre Dame national championship game? Remember your big takeaways observing Bama? Their O-line played with great hand placement and controlled the line of scrimmage. Please find your old notes and revisit all that was said and done on that with your O-line. We have a mammoth line that should be a lot better than we are right now. If guys do not improve their balance and hand placement in the next 4-5 weeks, we'll fall short of winning another natty.

I agree the sum of the offensive line parts should be greater than it is right now. And I have more faith in Greg Studrawa (and Ed Warinner, if need be) tightening that ship than I do the passing game getting revamped in a month.

Teams don't respect Ohio State's receivers, which lets them load the box and blitz J.T. Barrett until he's flustered and falling back into bad habits.

Perhaps one hand could wash the other, though.

 GET DUMPED THEN, BAMA. Alabama entered the season No. 1 and will be No. 1 entering the playoffs after it runs roughshod over Florida on Saturday for the SEC championship.

That means it will be favored over any competitor it faces in the playoffs. The question is by how much.


The Golden Nugget in Las Vegas makes 12-0 Alabama an 8-point favorite over Ohio State, -10 vs. Michigan, -12 vs. Clemson, -14 vs. Washington, -18 vs. Wisconsin, -18.5 vs. Colorado and -19 vs. Penn State, per oddsmaker Aaron Kessler.

The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook is similarly bullish on Alabama, making the Tide 8.5-point favorites over the Buckeyes and 11.5-point favorites over Clemson, per SportsInsights.


Here are the lines with comments from BookMaker odds consultant Scott Cooley.

Ohio State +7.5: "You can't discount an Urban Meyer gameplan for any big game, but we'd open higher than a touchdown to see where the action takes it."

Alabama, though it hasn't beaten three Top 10 teams like Ohio State, seems to be the most well-rounded team in contention. (Shoutout to Nick Saban, who runs the offense he spent three years whining about. Jalen Hurts is the truth.)

I'd have to see how the local team performs in the opening round, but I refuse to rule out Underdog Urban Meyer until some team proves him to be the actual underdog.

I'd take 7.5 points, but 8.5 would feel like a gift from the heavens. 

 BE A SHAME IF SOMEBODY RUINED IT. Other fan bases claim they support their false flag local teams in big games. But none of them support their team like Ohio State fans.

For further proof of this, let's turn to the Big Ten Championship secondary ticket market, where you can watch the two most boring programs in the conference play live for the price of a case of beer.

The Big Ten isn't alone, by the way:

Skipping another date with Wisconsin in Indianapolis was a damned power move. I lack the words to express my excitement for Saturday when I can wake up and treat the day as a fan who doesn't have to produce content until 2 a.m. 

Whitney asked if I wanted to do anything to celebrate the occasion. I almost said, "Let's go to Indianapolis," but $17 for a ticket to a clash between Paul Chryst and James Frankin is too rich for my blood.

Instead, I said, "Yes, I want to lay on our couch and read throughout the day before watching the big games at night, just as God built me to do."

 PROPS TO MICHAEL DRAKE. I still laugh at all the social media posts I saw from students who swore Michael Drake was bad because they didn't see him ambling around campus like E. Gordon Gee.


Drake also said the university took too long last year to warn the campus community of a hostage situation at the Wexner Center for the Arts.

“We revamped it, put in a series of protocols to make it work more quickly. This year it worked more quickly and we were pleased about that,” he told Fisher.

It took just 1 minute and 45 seconds from the beginning of the attack for a campus-wide Buckeye Alert message to be sent, which Drake said is “a dramatic improvement over what it would have been even a year ago.”

That's the foresight that makes him a valuable cog in the Ohio State machine. Officer Alan Horujko and Drake played massive roles in saving lives Monday.

 YA DONE GOOFED, OREGON. When Chip Kelly pulled his NFL ripcord and left Eugene, Boise State coach Chris Petersen held interest in the job.

But Oregon never considered a former assistant, instead choosing to elevate Mark Helfrich to the job.


When Kelly left following the 2012 season, the Ducks were committed to a succession plan and promoted Helfrich from within. Oregon never seriously considered Petersen at that time.

After Helfrich got the head-coaching job, Petersen, then still at Boise, sent a text message to his friend: “Congrats,” it read, “and condolences.”

Fast forward to Oct. 8, in Eugene’s Autzen Stadium, and in the moments after the Huskies’ 70-21 victory over the Ducks, Petersen genuinely felt sorry about the beating he had leveled on his friend. Already, speculation had been swirling about Helfrich’s job security. That speculation went into overdrive after that night, and Petersen surely sensed it would.

Reading this makes me thankful Ohio State went from Jim Tressel to Urban Meyer, but it also makes me hope Meyer coaches for another 300 years. Only things like "Nick Saban to Alabama" and "Urban Meyer to Ohio State" are sure-things in this business.

 THOSE WMDs. I interviewed the OSU attacker on the first day of school... Abolish high school football... Sotheby's tries to block suit over Leonardo sold and resold at huge markup... First Nations man conducts own dialysis treatments to avoid moving to the city... Why Rory Gilmore is the worst in Netflix's Gilmore Girls revival.

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