Skull Session: Ohio State Defense Leads the Way, Offense Rolling, and Luke Fickell Relives Nebraska Nightmare

By D.J. Byrnes on October 12, 2017 at 4:59 am
Herbie Husker looking to get dumped for the October 12th 2017 Skull Session

We begin today with an important announcement:

Love social media accounts that share memes and uncredited images. Is this real? Did it happen in Oregon?

Trick questions. I don't care. It aligns with my worldview, and I'm taking it as gospel to improve the dopamine flow in my disease-infested brain. 

Plus, I know Cleveland fans need the pick-me-up after the righteous judgment against their stickball team last night.

Please never mention baseball in the comments again unless the one good team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, win the World Series... or they cancel the World Series forever.


Word of the Day: Blatherskite.

 AND A SILVER BULLET WILL LEAD THEM. When Urban Meyer arrived at Ohio State, I though the Buckeyes would never score under 40 points a game. Finally, the Percy Harvin position had come to Ohio State! 

Five years later, I tilted my cap to a brainiac who tried to plant a flag into turf after the local team scored 16 points in a nationally-televised loss.

Ohio State's offense switched since then (more on that in a bit), but if the Buckeyes win it all, it will likely be the defense that led them.


Over the entire season, including the Oklahoma game, Ohio State is 6th nationally in defensive S&P+. They’ve given up less than 16 points a game. They’ve nearly completely bottled up opposing rushing attacks, limited explosive offensive plays better than nearly anybody else in the country, and are forcing teams into inefficient down-and-distance situations. That forces teams to make inefficient decisions, or to try and force plays, and that’s when turnovers, sacks, or other explosive defensive plays happen.

And that’s what’s happening. Again, take the raw number stats with a grain of salt, since they aren’t adjusted for opponent or garbage time, but Ohio State is tied for 19th nationally with 17 sacks. They’re second in the country in tackles for loss. And 16th in 3rd down defense. Whether you like your stats advanced, or basic, the math is showing that Ohio State is putting the hammer down and making life hard for opponents.

This is a really important and promising development for Ohio State’s playoff and Big Ten title prospects.

People forget the Silver Bullets took flight just like the offense down the stretch of 2014. When Schiano's operation gets rolling, they set the table for the offense, too. One hand washing the other—as life was meant to be.

 OFFENSE ROLLING RIGHT NOW. Despite the last four opponent rosters ranging from "scrappy two-stars" to "mid-table Big Ten," it's impossible to ignore Ohio State's offensive improvements.

The offense rolled, which is what good offenses are supposed to do. The ship might not be totally righted, but it's clear the break in schedule helped the team's confidence.


“We’re rolling right now,” said senior tight end Marcus Baugh. “We know what we are doing and how we have to play, and now we just have to continue to go out there and execute.”

Through six games, Ohio State ranks first in the Big Ten in rushing yards, passing yards, yards per play and yards per game — a clean sweep. Nationally, the Buckeyes rank fourth in yards per game and fifth in yards per play. The offense has gained at least 580 yards in five of those six games, marking the best stretch for Meyer-led Ohio State since the 2014 season.

But as the Buckeyes prepare for Saturday night’s road trip to Nebraska, no improvement is more evident than in the passing game. Bemoaned for his lack of progression through much of the past two seasons, senior J.T. Barrett has responded by playing the best football of his career, or at least the best since his breakout redshirt freshman campaign.

They're just not rolling, either. They're rolling at historic pace.

From Ohio State's SID (which means Strongman in Defense) Jerry Emig:

2,462 yards of offense in the last four games, the most ever over a four-game span for the program. The 2014 team had 2,456 yards during its four-game romp of 500-plus yard games.

I'm not going to delude myself into thinking Nebraska is King Tut.

But if the offense steamrolls the Huskers, I'll be ready to let the chips fall where they do against Penn State with the Buckeyes coming off a buy and the Nittany Lions coming off a night game against Michigan.

 KNOW THOSE FEELS. Ohio State last visited Lincoln in 2011. (That rumbling you hear is the stampede to the comments to make a Joe Bauserman joke.)

I remember being the only 11W staffer to think Ohio State would beat Nebraska. (I was also the only one to think the Buckeyes would win the Rose Bowl, which, lol.)

For three quarters I looked like Nastradmus before it switched. I can still taste the ash in my mouth, and I didn't put my soul into it like Luke Fickell.

The loss clearly hangs with that man.

From Tim Moody of Scout:

You had a 26-7 lead before losing to Nebraska in 2011. Was that a turning point for the season?

"That will be one you never, ever forget. That was truly, I don't know that we ever recovered from that. We were in pretty good shape, we were doing pretty well, we were coming on and we never, ever as a team recovered from that.

"And I can't exactly tell you, yes we can say that Braxton went out with a twisted ankle and they rattled off maybe 30 unanswered points (actually 28). All I can tell you is I walked and ran to the locker room afterwards and I couldn't talk, couldn't speak, barely could stand up. I just remember my best friend Mike Vrabel just kind of grabbing me at the coach's locker and just saying, 'Hey, this is when they need you the most; you've got to be your best.' And I couldn't tell you what exactly was really said or whatever, but that's one of those memories that you'll never forget and one of those things I could never thank him enough for grabbing you, picking you up."

The worst part about athletics is how you remember losses more vividly than wins.

I played in a charity dodgeball tournament in college. Got screwed out of a five-on-one comeback because my alma mater had a janky rule about "freeing your team" by making a free throw. 

Seeing that army of chumps sprint off the bench and descend on the exhausted pile of flesh like a pack of rabid jackals still sends a chill down my spine. I can still taste the stomach bile erupted from my mouth after enduring a fusillade of body shots from country strong dudes.

It will haunt me to the grave. I'm mad just typing this. 

I understand Fickell's pain.

 JUST THE TIP? The FBI probe into the open secret of college basketball recruiting continued this week.

Folks, I hope you have stock in popcorn companies, because this shit is about to be amazing.


NEW YORK – They shared a defense table here on the fifth floor of the Daniel Patrick Moynihan United States Courthouse. They were each surrounded by lawyers they never dreamed of needing, read a list of crimes they never imagined could come. They were each freed on $100,000 bonds and ordered back for a Nov. 9 preliminary hearing. A sketch artist, the same one who famously and comically butchered Tom Brady’s look during deflate-gate, scribbled their images.

Their careers in tatters, their long-term freedom uncertain and the sport of college basketball hanging in the balance, Emanuel “Book” Richardson and Tony Bland stood and, with grim looks on their faces, gave each other a long, tight bear hug.

For years they competed against each other, Richardson as an assistant coach at Arizona, Bland at USC. They fought for wins and recruits and Pac-12 titles.

Now they were co-defendants and alleged co-conspirators, a slew of fraud charges laid out by Judge Katherine Parker on Tuesday afternoon that made their current reality crystal clear.

Some head coaches are about to find out nobody goes to jail for somebody else. But others already know it, which is why a dangerous nimbus has descended over the sport ahead of the season's tipoff.


"This is the tip of the iceberg," one of them said.

One former high-major college coach who retains deep connections in the business said he believes the case will lead to 40 to 50 job openings for head and assistant coaches by the spring.

Already, some coaches at schools not linked to the first round of charges have retained attorneys. A sense of unease permeates the sport during a time usually filled with optimism because the season opens next month.

Where can I preorder the book on this investigation and the fallout? Because this scandal is about to be an all-timer.

 GREAT #CONTENT. Ohio State had $1.4 million burning a hole in its pocket, so it erected an "iconic" clock in north campus—a region you wouldn't recognize if you haven't visited in the last decade.

It's basically a fancy billion, and it got skewered yesterday by the voice of Ohio State students.

From Ricky Mulvey of The Lantern:

While many of Ohio State’s students complain about the construction of the $1.4 million Tom W. Davis Clock Tower, this necessary addition to campus is one of the best things to happen to this university. Campus watering holes like The O Patio & Pub and Toos Under High will be gone soon and students will need places to gather. A 75-foot clock tower is the perfect way to fill this void.

You might have had alcohol at The O Patio & Pub, but when that is gone, you are going to have wholesome, lifelong memories at this clock tower. Ohio State is also going to put a video screen on it. Isn’t that neat?

Ohio State spokesman Dave Isaacs “does not believe” the video screen will play advertisements, but I think he is wrong because money is a thing that exists in Ohio.

This satirical screen elevates Mulvey into my top five comedians, dead or alive. Follow him on Twitter.

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