Skull Session: That Time Ohio State and Michigan Tied, Parsing the Schedule, and a Pessimistic Hoops Forecast

By D.J. Byrnes on May 19, 2017 at 4:59 am
Kerry Coombs thanks God it's Friday for the May 19 2017 Skull Session

Elect me President in a few years and I will executive order the NBA to skip chicanery like Cavs–Celtics and Warriors–Spurs and start the big boy rumble Sunday afternoon.


Word of the Day: Revue.

 A TIE? As a lightweight soccer fan (beer we go Aston Villa and Columbus Crew), I've grown accustomed to ties. If they're like kissing your sister, I think the disgust of knocking on incest's door is a fair outcome for an equally fought match. Sometimes neither team deserves to walk away with a win.

One game I would make an eternal exception to that rule is Ohio State–Michigan, which has tied six times. (That's what I've read, anyway. I don't believe the world existed until 1993 when I logged on to the internet for the first time.)

The last time it happened in 1992. But the most magnificent tie happened in 1973, which is apparently the only game from the 1973 season worth remembering.


The back story: The point of these pieces is to highlight moments for each given team in 50 Best*. For the most part, I’ve tried to avoid obvious games that people might already know because that takes from the discovery process. Discovery was my favorite part about writing this book, and I hope it helps to keep the reading process exciting, too.

But there was no other game for Michigan in 1973. Go ahead and look at the schedule if you don’t believe me. Ohio State was the only ranked opponent. Navy was the only other team to stay within 14 points, and that was because the Wolverines played like crap. Michigan was too good for everyone in what was increasingly a two-team Big Ten. This was a one-game schedule, and Ohio State was the one game.

It was also amazing.

Here's that game in 17 minutes:

What's hilarious is this devolved into a tiebreaker for the Big Ten's Rose Bowl bid. The Big Ten selected Ohio State because nobody likes Michigan except Michigan.

It's the subject of a fantastic BTN documentary, too:

I'll just say this: They're lucky I wasn't even a thoroughbred sperm in those days. If The Game ever ended in a tie from here on out, I would launch a state petition to finish the game in the parking lot. It would be the most popular petition in state history.

 TALKING SCHEDULE. One perk about the offseason is you can look at the schedule and predict games without rosters being set or seeing any team take a snap.


Toughest non-conference game: The visit from Oklahoma for the second game of the season on Sept. 9 should be a doozy. The Buckeyes won last season in Norman, 45-24, so you know OU will be stoked for payback. Adding intrigue is the fact former Sooner offensive coordinator and Indiana coach Kevin Wilson is in his first season as Ohio State’s OC. So, a week after he faces the Hoosiers (on a Thursday) in the season opener, he takes on Oklahoma and former boss Bob Stoops.

Toughest conference game: There are some tough road games, including trips to Nebraska and Iowa. But let’s go with the season-ending visit to Michigan for “The Game.” Ohio State continues to dominate this series, winning five in a row and 12 of 13. Last year’s 30-27 double OT win by OSU in Columbus was epic and left Jim Harbaugh fuming. The last Wolverine triumph vs. the Buckeyes? In 2011 in Ann Arbor.

The only thing that doesn't rule about the 2017 schedule is The Game is in Ann Arbor, though that will end with 70,000 cuckolded Michigan fans standing idly by while an invading horde of barbarians ransacks their living room while humming hymns of war, which is always a special seasonal delicacy.

At Iowa and at Nebraska are about as intimidating as a road Big Ten game can be without actually being intimidating. I'm going to be furious if I hear about anyone disrespecting Nebraska fans in Lincoln, though. I've never read a bad thing about a Nebraska fan.

 IT WILL GET WORSE. As the venerable Tim Shoemaker pointed out yesterday, Ohio State hasn't hit a Randy Ayers-level of decadence yet. So we have that going for us.

But with how the roster looks, if Thad Matta makes it to the Big Dance he should win every coaching award in the country. However, it's hard to feel positive heading into next year and it's only May.


We don’t know Ohio State’s full schedule yet, including the Big Ten slate, but we know enough to know it won’t be easy. The Buckeyes have to play the defending national champs (UNC) in New Orleans. They’ll play in a massive non-conference tournament that will feature at least two games against brand-name teams. They’ll face a Big Ten gauntlet with a vastly improved Illinois squad, a Penn State team that returns a ton of big name recruits, Minnesota and Northwestern squads that could compete for Big Ten titles, and oh yeah, the usual suspects like Michigan State, Wisconsin, Maryland, etc.

In mid-May, it’s hard to point to many teams in the Big Ten who project to be much worse than they were last year. Every game is going to be a battle.

Now, that means there’ll be plenty of RPI points to be had, but it also means that if there are injuries, or if the young players are not mentally strong, then little slumps can become big slumps in a hurry.

I won't lie to you: The program flaming out next season would be good for #clicks. But after that people will outright lose interest (compound that with in-season losses, too) and that's bad for #business.

 I would have to spearhead a media campaign for change.

It's nothing personal. I like Thad, but he put this on his shoulders last summer while talking to boosters (and probably unbeknownst to him on camera) back in July:

I like the guys we've got in here. We're going through a transition where we lost three guys. After the Florida game this year, I told our guys two things after the game.

Number one, I'm tired of the B.S. I'm going back to coaching basketball. I'm going back to running this program the way we did when we got here.

The second thing is, some of you are going to transfer. You don't know it yet, but whatever you do—don't come see me. Just shoot me a text, because I'm tired of looking at you.

And we got rid of some guys we needed to get rid of. We got rid of problems, but we kept solutions.

As the old cliché goes, it's easier to toss your players under the bus in front of boosters than rectify a clean program in the seedy world of college basketball.

 GET THE PEN READY. Barring injury, J.T. Barrett will finish his Ohio State career with a staggering amount of records.


J.T. Barrett is on pace to become the 12th member of college football's exclusive 40-40 club -- 40 rushing touchdowns and 40 passing touchdowns. To make the list, Barrett needs nine rushing TDs this season, something he has done in each of his first three years. If the offense gets humming in Columbus, he has a good shot of ending his career at the very top of that list. If he scores 49 times this season (his previous career high is 45 touchdowns), he'll top Central Michigan's Dan LeFevour as the most productive member of the 40-40 club in his career. --Dan Murphy

The era of open offenses helps, as does Urban Meyer's offensive philosophy, but it's hilarious to think he might be underrated. Oh how much can change in four quarters.

 THE BUCK STOPS HERE. A tweet appeared on my timeline yesterday and flashed me back to this great quote from Urban Meyer on coaches saying certain great players "don't fit their scheme."


It's an idea Meyer shared at a coaches clinic, and it comes back to the idea of fitting your scheme around your personnel, rather than trying to find guys that fit it. It’s a strategy Meyer has used for a long time, and it was evident in his 12-0 debut season at Ohio State in 2012.

“We got here and there were no H-backs,” he said. “We had a big tailback and a couple of tight ends and a fullback, and you went 12-0, and we didn't complain about it and didn't say ‘We don't have this and don't have this.’

“So you adapt your schemes. In my opinion, the good coordinators and those type of guys do a very good job with that. You'll find out what you got and do it. And don't (say), ‘Well, he doesn't fit.’ Make him fit. We'll always take the better player and find a way to make him fit. We did it for years.”

It's a propitious omen for an organization when accountability starts at the top.

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