Skull Session: Justin Fields Third Down Success, a Double Standard With LSU, and Ohio State's Insane Defensive Turnaround

By Kevin Harrish on November 25, 2019 at 4:59 am
Brutus is ready for The Game in today's Skull Session.

Folks, it's that time of year.

I love my large adult son band conductor.

Word of the Day: Odium.

 THIRD DOWN MAGICIAN. All season, Justin Fields looked like a damn cheat code on third down, and it hasn't really even seemed to matter how far he has to go to get it.

Turns out, he hasn't just been good, he's been historically great.

The stats pretty much just back up what your eyes see every single week. I mean, what do you do about this:

Or this:


Or this:

Michigan is actually one of the best third-down defenses in the country, allowing a conversion rate of just .293, so this week should be fun.

Granted, Ohio State's third-down defense is still better than that (.280), and the Buckeyes went 9-for-14 on third down against Wisconsin, which is currently the nation's best (.246).

I'll uh, roll with the Bucks.

 THIS WEEK, IN TERRIBLE TAKES. Folks, I regret to inform you that because Ohio State fumbled three times, a top-10 win in a game it controlled from start to finish and dominated in nearly every statistical category does nothing to improve its playoff resume.

That's the gist of multiple postgame #takes from national outlets, including this one from Ralph Russo, seemingly trying to talk folks into the idea that LSU should stay No. 1.

With a chance to make a statement that it belonged atop the rankings, Ohio State caught a case of fumbilitis and let No. 9 Penn State hang around on a wet Saturday at the Horseshoe. Pushed for the first time this season, the second-ranked Buckeyes (10-0, No. 2 CFP) responded and comfortably put the Nittany Lions away without scoring a fourth-quarter point.

“Having this slugfest under our belt is going to be good for us in the long run,” Buckeyes center Josh Myers said.


Yes, it should help the Buckeyes to be battle-tested against Michigan next week and in the Big Ten championship next month. Even more so, it could help them if/when they reach the playoff.

But in the beauty pageant that is the playoff selection process, the Buckeyes’ victory might not have been pretty enough to convince the committee they should be No. 1.

Ah yes, because of three fumbles, the Buckeyes absolutely do not compare to an LSU team that has played three one-score games this season (including one against a bad Texas team), allowed Alabama to crawl back into the game it should have dominated, and gave up 400 yards through the air three times this season (including literally last week!).

Do you know how many times Ohio State has given up 400 yards through the air this year? Oddly enough, it's the same number of times the Buckeyes have given up 400 yards period – zero. LSU gave up more points to an unranked team than Ohio State did in a six-game stretch from early September to mid October but somehow we're going to overlook that and talk about three fumbles.

I'm the last person to scream "media conspiracy!" but this seems like a hilarious double standard to me. LSU's close and ugly wins against Alabama, Auburn and Texas (!!!) help its playoff resume, and you're trying to tell me that Ohio State's double digit win over Penn State is ugly enough that it should keep the Buckeyes from a No. 1 ranking? All because Ohio State fumbled three times?

If anything, you could argue that the Buckeyes' ability to still win the game comfortably by double digits despite what was at least a 17-point swing on those three turnovers proves how good and dominant Ohio State is. How many teams could survive that game, much less win by 11?

But whatever. Put them No. 2. I don't care. Clemson can get dumped too.

 NIGHT AND DAY. If you too are concerned about the way Ohio State beat a top-10 opponent by double digits, let me remind you that at this time last year, the Buckeyes were coming off a game in which they allowed 500 yards and 51 points to Maryland and almost lost on a two-point conversion.

I love that the defense didn't just improve, it magically switched from a turnstyle to arguably the top defenses in the country.

I also love that Urban Meyer's first response to why the defense is drastically better this year with the exact same players was that they were "a year older and a year healthier" before tossing in a "you know, we had some schematic issues, too" as an aside.

Yes, "older and healthier" is the primary thing that takes you from No. 98 in the country all the way to No. 2.

 WHAT HAVE YOU DONE, RUTGERS? There might be one person on Earth who earnestly wanted to coach Rutgers Football, and it sounds like Rutgers chased him away and tried to paint it like the villain.

Steve Politi absolutely torched the university and athletic director Patrick Hobbs.

Any hope of that ended on Sunday afternoon when, after two weeks of haggling behind the scenes, Schiano withdrew his name from consideration. It is telling that, within minutes, a national website had a story had a “source” doubting whether or not the 53-year-old New Jersey native was “all-in” for the job.


Schiano, according to multiple sources familiar with the Nov. 5 meeting between the two sides, came armed with a scouting report of the current roster that stunned people in the room and a list of more than 100 potential targets in the transfer portal to jumpstart the rebuild. He had already started recruiting, behind the scenes, to salvage a 2020 class that looks like a hopeless cause now.

Now Rutgers is going to try to smear him by insisting that he would have walked away like he did after a few months with the New England Patriots, that he was too negative with his criticism of a program on a 20-game Big Ten losing streak, that, besides, he was asking for soooo much. It’s nonsense.

Schiano did not make over-the-top demands. He didn’t set the market for a Big Ten head coach. That eight-year, $32-million salary that’s giving everyone sticker shock would have landed him in the bottom quarter of conference salaries. That $7.5 million pool for assistant coaches and football-office staff is still a full $5 million less than Ohio State and Penn State. He was taking things off the table over the past two weeks, two sources confirmed, not making additional demands.

I know a lot has been made about Schiano's demands before taking the job, but I can't be the only one thinking they're totally reasonable, can I? He wanted assurance that the facilities would be upgraded and he would have money to hire a good staff. That seems... valid? Why would he take the job if Rutgers wasn't financially committed to actually improving its football program?

Oh well. I'm sure Rutgers will find a great coach with all the young, eager up-and-comers banging at the door.

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