Skull Session: Playoff Chances, Nick Bosa's Core Muscle Recovery and P.J. Fleck's Buckeye Memories

By Kevin Harrish on October 10, 2018 at 4:59 am
J.K. Dobbins walks into today's skull session.

No matter how your day goes today, at least you won't be owned as hard as this fellow owned Nebraska.


Word of the Day: Calumny.

 PLAYOFF HOPES LOOKING PRETTY SWELL. I'll be honest, if you would have told me before the season that the Buckeyes would be 5-1 at this point, I would have taken it and liked Ohio State's chances of making the playoff.

But here we are, with the Bucks sitting at a perfect 6-0 in October after downing two top-15 opponents on the road and Ohio State's playoff hopes are looking just stellar, and there might even be a little margin for error.


Ohio State could drop any one of the six games remaining on its schedule and still have at least a 67 percent chance to reach the playoff.

The Big Ten champion has been left out of the playoff in each of the past two seasons, but Ohio State already is in a much better position. Instead of suffering a hangover after the Penn State win, Ohio State pulled it together the following week, this time holding off a pesky Indiana team. The Buckeyes still have one of the most impressive résumés because of their road win at Penn State and the neutral site win against TCU. They rank No. 1 in ESPN’s Strength of Record metric, which gives the average Top 25 team just a 9 percent chance to go undefeated against the same schedule. Quarterback Dwayne Haskins has 25 touchdowns to just four interceptions. He’s a big reason why the Buckeyes are fifth in offensive efficiency this season at 86.1, their best mark since finishing with an efficiency of 87.5 on their way to the title in 2014.

I know Ohio State still has work to do, especially on the defensive end, but after all the defensive woes and despite losing the best player in the country to injury, the Buckeyes have the most difficult strength of record in the country and are in the driver's seat for a playoff spot.

Can they beat Bama? I don't know. But I'd rather find out than wonder.

 INSIDE BOSA'S RECOVERY. We won't have an update on Nick Bosa's recovery until at least November, but y'all have been on the Internet long enough to know that ain't going to stop us from talking about it.

We're not going to hear from Bosa, but we can hear from others who've dealt with a similar injury, and that's exactly what my good pal Austin did, connecting with former Buckeye receiver Anthony Gonzalez and former NHL forward Jared Boll to talk about their injuries and recoveries.

From Austin Ward of Lettermen Row:

“No, I wasn’t able to play through it,” former Ohio State and NFL wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez said. “It almost feels like a knife being pushed directly through your abdomen.”

A sharp pain. The inability to make normal athletic moves. And then the frustration of not being able to perform athletically is thrown on top of the stinging jabs near the stomach.

It all adds up to one incredibly uncomfortable issue, one that even talking about still seems to sting former NHL forward Jared Boll.

“I don’t know what it feels like running, but skating you couldn’t push your legs out,” Boll said. “It would just freaking burn.”

So, it hurts like hell – that seems pretty clear. But the good news is, it doesn't sound like it's an injury that will sideline him for very long or really even linger once he's cleared to play.

“As soon as I got cleared, I didn’t feel like I was protecting it or anything. I don’t remember how long it took me, four and a half, five weeks maybe. Some injuries you come back from, you kind of protect yourself. But this one, it was like I didn’t even remember having it. I was just boom, done. It shouldn’t be something where [Bosa] is hurt all year because of it, you know what I mean? It depends on how bad the tear is, obviously, but somebody could easily be playing in four weeks.”


“Some injuries just linger on forever,” Boll said. “But with this one, as soon as I was back, I was boom, on the ice, 100 percent, good to go.

I don't know about you, but to me that sounds like bad news for Michigan.

 FLECK REFLECTS ON OHIO STATE. For those unaware, Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck began his boat rowing in Columbus as a graduate assistant under Jim Tressel in 2006.

Fleck's duties were relatively menial – he served coffee and took the blame for the occasional botched punt protection call – but he got to learn under one of the top coaches in the game, even in a crushing, lopsided loss.


Florida was leading 24-14 in the second quarter when Ohio State decided to go for it on fourth and 1 from its own 29. There was still plenty of game left, but Fleck was gobsmacked by what Tressel said next over the headset.

“He said, ‘Boys, if we don’t get this, the game is over,’ ” Fleck recalled.

Wells was stopped for no gain, and the Gators went on to win 41-14 for the national championship.

“I never heard Jim Tressel ever say that (before),” Fleck said. “So, I got to see somebody who was the best coach in America do everything always right and still run into a buzzsaw somehow, and we couldn’t do anything about it.”

Ohio State was where Fleck got his start, so Saturday will be a bit of a homecoming for him, and he'll be dressing for the occasion, paying homage to Tressel with his attire.

Fleck will wear a tie on the sideline Saturday, a nod, in part, to a mentor he has long admired in Tressel.

“I learned how you treat people in the profession by watching Jim,” Fleck said. “…Not just when you are coaching. But off the field, watching … his serving and giving and how he treated everybody. When Jim Tressel talked to you, everybody felt important.

“To work for a guy like that as your first job, that sets the tone for how you live the rest of your coaching life. I’m just really, really blessed that I got a chance to be around special people in my first job.”

I like Fleck and I love that he's made Minnesota fun for me.

 HERE, BLOCK CHASE YOUNG. Imagine having to block Chase Young – or really anyone on the Ohio State defensive line – in your first college start in just your second year of playing competitive football at any level.

That's going to be the real life of Daniel Faalele this weekend.


The Minnesota Golden Gophers’ released their depth chart this morning for Saturday’s matchup with Ohio State. The most notable change was 6’9’’, 400-lb. true freshman Daniel Faalele starting at right tackle in place of redshirt sophomore Sam Schlueter.

Faalele was inserted at right tackle in the third quarter against Iowa after Hawkeyes defensive end Anthony Nelson abused Schlueter for three sacks in the first half. He had previously only seen in action in the Gophers’ season opener against New Mexico State, as the coaching staff had hoped to limit his participation to four games, preserving his redshirt.

Well, plans have changed. Thirteen sacks allowed in five games will do that.

Size certainly isn’t a problem for Faalele, but his inexperience extends well beyond that of a typical true freshman. Originally from Australia, Faalele enrolled in the IMG Academy — where he played with fellow Gopher freshmen Zack Annexstad and Curtis Dunlap, Jr. — as a junior to learn the game of football. He spent his first season there strictly practicing and did not see game action.

The kid is 6-foot-9, 400 lbs., so at least he's got that working for him, but there's just no way this ends well for poor Zack Annexstad.

 IAN BOOK APPARENTLY NOT SUSPENDED. Rumors have been swirling all week that Notre Dame starting quarterback Ian Book would be suspended this week, and perhaps indefinitely, but it seems that's not the case.

That's a big break for Notre Dame. Now the Irish will surely beat the mighty Pitt Panthers this weekend.

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