Skull Session: Buckeyes Pick Up a Way-Too-Early No. 1 Ranking, A Deeper Three-Point Range Causing Chaos, and Texas Heads to Columbus a Year Earlier

By Kevin Harrish on January 24, 2020 at 4:59 am
The future is fun in today's skull session.

The basketball team laid another egg last night, but at least K.J. Hill will never let us down.

Word of the Day: Moil.

 BEST DAMN TEAM. Last week, compiled a lengthy list of the "way-too-early" rankings from around the country, and the consensus was that Ohio State was going to be a national championship contender, but not the best team in the country to start the season.

Not that it matters even slightly, but the Buckeyes picked up mostly No. 2 rankings with a few No. 3 rankings sprinkled in here while Clemson took home the No. 1 spot in every single outlet's rankings.

But now, someone's giving the Bucks some of that respect, with Pro Football Focus ranking Ohio State No. 1.

Ohio State may be losing the third most WAA, but it also returns the most WAA in the FBS — headlined by quarterback Justin Fields. In his first year with the Buckeyes, Fields’ 92.5 passing grade was second to only Joe Burrow this year, and he is one of the top two returning quarterbacks in college football. He’ll have two of the top 25 wide receivers returning to college football at his disposal in Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, and while J.K. Dobbins is gone, they should be more than fine at running back. The Buckeyes were third in expected points added per play in 2019, and they’ll likely post a number similar to that with Fields under center.

On the other hand, the defense does take a massive hit losing key guys such as Chase Young, Jeff Okudah and Damon Arnette. They allowed the second-fewest expected points added per play last season — and Okudah and Arnette were a big part of that.

Former four-star recruit Sevyn Banks showed a lot of promise during his limited action in 2019, totaling four combined pass breakups and interceptions on his nine targets in coverage. He’ll likely be starting at outside corner alongside Cameron Brown, who owns freakish speed and allowed just eight of 20 targets to be caught in 2019. The defense may not be on the same level as this past season, but quarterback play trumps all, and with Fields, anything is possible for the Buckeyes.

Obviously, January national championships mean less than September Heismans, but I'm cool with the Buckeyes getting a little respect this offseason, especially if it pisses off a few Clemson fans.

 BLAME THE THREE-POINT LINE. I honestly didn't think it would be a big deal when the NCAA announced it would be moving the three-point line back just over two feet, but just about halfway through the hoops season, I think it's safe to say all hell has broken loose, and it seems the extended three-point line is the culprit.

The problem is teams are still firing up threes like there's no tomorrow, despite making them less often than ever.

The rate of three-point attempts per field-goal attempt has dipped from 38.7 percent last year to 37.6 this year, but that is still higher than every other season prior to 2018-19. And part of that decrease results from Savannah State's transition to D-II this summer: The Tigers led the nation in three-point rate by taking more than 55 percent of their shots from downtown in each of the last three seasons.


One other thing to consider: When three-point rate began to skyrocket, free-throw rate started to plummet—a natural progression as offenses relied more heavily on shots less likely to result in fouls. From the high point of 40.5 free-throw attempts per 100 field-goal attempts in 2013-14, that number has steadily declined to its current rate of 32.3. That's a decrease of more than 20 percent in just six seasons. (Maybe the freedom of movement initiative is working after all.)

That combination of factors has come together to make this the least efficient season in KenPom history.

The current average adjusted offensive efficiency rating is 101.2. The previous low mark was 102.1 in 2002-03. The average had been at 104.2 or higher in each of the past six seasons.

Tired: Blame the refs for Ohio State losses

Wired: Blame the three-point line for Ohio State losses.

In all seriousness, there's a chance this actually played a significant role in the Buckeyes' slump, because they were hotter than hell from three-point range for a solid month, and now they can't a damn thing.

I'm sure there's more to it, but my brain is only so big and the simplest explanation I can come up with, so I'm gonna roll with it.

 ADJUST YOUR CALENDARS. Folks, I regret to inform you that you're going to have to adjust your plans for 2025, because Ohio State's making a schedule change.

So now the Buckeyes get Texas and Washington at home in 2025. I don't wanna hear y'all complaining about Ohio State's lack of a competitive non-conference slate.

 ANOTHER FIVE-STAR. Ohio State officially has two five-star receivers in the 2020 class as Jaxon Smith-Njigba finally earned his fifth star in the composite ratings this week. All it took was putting up video game numbers for his entire senior season and dominating everybody at high school All-American practices.

It's kind of terrifying if you think about the success Ohio State's had at developing wide receivers the past few years (shoutout to Brian Hartline) without ever having five-star talent out of high school.

Now, the Buckeyes have two. Good luck, everyone else.

 NOT STICKING TO SPORTS. A Brazilian cartel uses tunnel to free 75 prisoners... A new lawsuit seeks to prove a man was innocent when Arkansas executed him... A man on trail for murder ate his incriminating tee shirt... Mutant baby goat born with a "human-face" is being "worshipped as an avatar of God" in India... Procrastination is more about emotions, not about time... In the past half century, the number of bathrooms per American has doubled.

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