Skull Session: Clemson More Talented Than Orange Bowl Team, Tyler Durbin Ready to Kick Again, and Ohio State Finishes Top-2 in Attendance

By D.J. Byrnes on December 19, 2016 at 4:59 am
Ohio State's Curtis Samuel crowhops to the December 19th, 2016 Skull Session.

Welcome to one of the more unproductive weeks on the American work calendar. At least it includes a polar vortex that makes us Midwesterners better than Southerners and Westerners who foolishly chose to live in a more temperate climate. 

 DABO ON THE TRAIL. Clemson will face a more talented Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl than it did in the Orange Bowl. But Ohio State will also face a more talented Clemson than in January 2014.

It's all thanks to Dabo Swinney's increased emphasis on recruiting.


Swinney has kicked things up a notch (especially recently) as his last five full classes —which excludes his current 10th-ranked class — have averaged a ranking of 13.4. And not only is Swinney roping in higher-caliber talent, he’s getting the most out of it.

For the second year in a row, the Tigers are in the College Football Playoff despite ranking outside of the top five in 247Sports’ composite talent rankings. Clemson is 10th this year, and reached the national title game a year ago after coming in 13th in the composite talent rankings.

Clemson is a recruiting factory, but history shows it’s hasn’t been able to recruit at the level of an Alabama (duh), but also programs like Ohio State, LSU, Florida State, Southern Cal, Michigan, Notre Dame, and a handful of other SEC programs (depending on the year). But that’s hasn’t stopped Clemson from getting players drafted; in early August, 45 ex-Tigers were in NFL camps, up from the previous program record of 37 set in 2015.


Clemson was really good when they outlasted Ohio State 40-35 in the 2014 Orange Bowl; they’re better now.

Only reason Clemson has the talent edge is due to its experience. But I'm not counting out Ohio State unless its offensive line doesn't make the trip. And given the standard set by Pat Elflein and Billy Price, I expect a solid performance out of the Slobs.

 DURBIN READY TO KICK AGAIN. Tyler Durbin replaced an injured Sean Nuernberger, and it became evident early Neurnberger wouldn't get his job back.

Durbin, however, missed two chip shots against Michigan, either of which would've prevented overtime. He made the one that counted most, though, and Urban Meyer is sticking by his guy.


“My plant foot was a little too close to the ball,” Durbin said, speaking for the first time since the game. “So I kicked it a little off the inside of my foot, which caused me to pull it.”


“But I’m able to enjoy it now. ... Thinking back to that game, I don’t remember a single person saying anything negative to me on the sideline or after the game. Everybody was real supportive. Even when the crowd rushed the field after the game, a lot of fans came up to me patting me on the back and saying, ‘Keep your head up. Good job. You had a good season. Keep working.’ ”


“I love him,” Meyer said of Durbin. “He will be our kicker in the playoff game and he’s got all the talent in the world. He did miss two of them, but he came back and hit the one that got us there. He’ll be fine. We just have to, in our own way, lift him up.”

Props to Durbin for not mentioning a subpar hold, which occurred on both missed kicks. And at least he'll play his next game in a climate-controlled dome.

Expect a return to form for Durbin, as long as the holds are there.

 GOOD AND BAD NEWS. Good news: Ohio State finished No. 2 in total attendance this year. Bad news: Michigan finished No. 1. 


MICHIGAN 110,468 LESS THAN +1% 103%
OHIO STATE 107,278 LESS THAN +1% 105%
TEXAS A&M 101,917 -2% 99%
ALABAMA 101,821 +1 100%
LSU 101,231 +8% 99%

No surprise, honestly. Michigan was still in the Big Ten title hunt come November, which is about as good as those people have had it since the late 1990s. 

And keep these numbers in mind next time people start ranting about ticket prices. Sure, they're gouging, but the gouging could be much worse. As long as Ohio State keeps winning at a historical clip, they can keep raising them, too.

But hey, at least those ticket sales will help pay for Greg Schiano's $1,000,000+ contract next month.

 WILD STORY. Deandre Johnson is a three-star DE Tennessee commit from Miami. But a classmate, a woman who suffers from mental illness, jeopardized that career when she randomly stabbed him at school.


“I was talking to some teammates, and I turned around, something just told me to turn around, and it was like, the blade was in to me and out of me,” Johnson said. “I couldn’t blink, I couldn’t even gasp.

“I didn’t feel anything, I just felt my heart beating fast.”

Thankfully for Jordan, his coach told paramedics to take him to Miami Children's hospital, where the general surgeon and chest surgeon happened to be on duty.

The surgeon, Dr. Redmond Burke, had performed a risky procedure to save Johnson’s life, cutting him from the top of his chest down to his navel in order to clear all the bleeding from the chest cavity.

Burke, with degrees from Stanford and Harvard, has been named one of the world’s most innovative surgeons and once starred in ABC’s pilot television show, The Miracle Workers.

Sounds like Dr. Burke will not have to buy another drink in Knoxville, should he be the first person in history to leave Miami to visit Knoxville.

 OHSAA TURNS TO NUMBERS. I've never understood why Ohio public and private schools compete against each other when private schools can recruit.

While Ohio High School Athletic Association weighed private and public divisions, it will use a formula to increase competitiveness next year.


Since the 2000 football season, 55 of the 106 total divisional state championships (.519 percentage) have been won by private schools, which make up only 15 percent (124) of the OHSAA’s 821 total member schools.


“Competitive balance is on track to begin in the fall of 2017,” said Tim Stried of the OHSAA. “All member schools successfully entered their soccer, volleyball, and football roster data this fall, which will be added to the enrollment counts for the fall of 2017, as planned.”

The OHSAA’s competitive balance system will be utilized for football and seven other sports — volleyball and boys and girls soccer in the fall season, boys and girls basketball in the winter, and baseball and softball in the spring.

If this doesn't work, let the 10 elite private schools make their own playoffs! 

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