Skull Session: Ohio State Football Has Star Power, Buckeye Nation is Massive and Chris Holtmann Continues to Make a Lasting Impact in Columbus

By Chase Brown on August 18, 2022 at 5:00 am
Look at that nut.

In case you missed it, the 2022 Ohio State football team is locked and loaded.

Oh, and that team will play football against Notre Dame in 16 days.

Let’s have a great Thursday, shall we?

 A CUT ABOVE. The consensus from college football’s top 25 polls is that Alabama and Ohio State are the two best teams ahead of this season. While plenty of factors are considered in ranking programs, it essentially boils down to who has the best talent on the field come Saturdays.

ESPN senior writer Ryan McGee set out to find which programs have the most talent in the sport, so he sent a survey to college football writers at his publication. McGee asked participants to answer one-on-one questions comparing the top talent in the sports to rank the top 100 players ahead of 2022.

Unsurprisingly, the Crimson Tide and Buckeyes are the best teams in that department, too, with the top four players in the country coming from those schools.

Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. – last season’s Bronko Nagurski Trophy recipient – came in as the No. 1 player in college football, followed by 2021 Heisman Trophy winner and Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young. The third and fourth-ranked players are C.J. Stroud and Jaxon Smith-Njigba.

Stroud is the leader of what should be a high-powered offense at Ohio State. He was a Heisman Trophy finalist last season and coach Ryan Day says he has seen growth and maturity from his quarterback. If all goes as planned, Stroud very well could be back on the Heisman list once this season is over.

Smith-Njigba broke out last season, even with Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave on the roster. Smith-Njigba led the team with 1,606 receiving yards and had nine receiving touchdowns. Quarterback C.J. Stroud is returning and Smith-Njigba will be one of his main targets.

Three other Buckeyes are also included in the top 100: TreVeyon Henderson (No. 7), Paris Johnson Jr. (No. 36) and Zach Harrison (No. 88). Henderson is ranked as the second-best running back behind Bijan Robinson of Texas. Johnson is the top-ranked offensive tackle and No. 2 lineman behind Notre Dame center Jarrett Patterson, who came in at No. 22.

Ohio State’s five players rank third only to Alabama and Georgia, who have eight and six names listed, respectively.

 BUCKEYE NATION, PLEASE STAND UP.  If you’ve followed Ohio State athletics long enough, you’ve probably heard the community referred to as “Buckeye Nation,” a name for the collection of worldwide fans who follow and support the university’s sports.

While the name doesn’t actually refer to a nation of people, a Tony Altimore study that analyzed the size of college football fanbase found there are an estimated 11.26 million Ohio State football fans worldwide, the most of any program in the country and a bigger population than some of the world’s 195 countries.

Notre Dame had the second-largest fanbase with an estimated 8.21 million people, followed by Texas with 7.82 million, Penn State with 6.86 million and Michigan with 6.76 million. Wisconsin also made the top 16 at 4.57 million.

Altimore’s research confirms what many Ohio State fans already knew – that Buckeye Nation is the largest fanbase in the country, and it’s not close. Congratulations, all.

 HOLTMANN MAKING A LASTING IMPACT. On Aug. 4, Ohio State men’s basketball coach Chris Holtmann and his wife Lori partnered with Columbus Recreation and Parks to resurface the outdoor court at Feddersen Community Center northeast of downtown. Holtmann, his wife and his players attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the court’s grand opening.

Thirteen days later, Holtmann announced that he and Lori would help renovate another Columbus park and its basketball courts to provide the city’s youth and adults with a well-maintained and well-kept place to participate in outdoor physical activity.

Cheers to Chris and Lori Holtmann for their outstanding work thus far and the concentrated efforts they have put forward to improve Columbus’ parks. These projects will have a lasting impact beyond Chris Holtmann’s tenure as the men’s basketball coach, which should give Buckeye fans tremendous pride.

 BACK-TO-BACK FOR STROUD? Before each season, The Athletic previews the Big Ten landscape with beat reporters who offer opinions and predictions for the conference. This year’s writers were from Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Penn State and Michigan, and they seem to like what Ohio State has talent-wise in 2022, specifically C.J. Stroud.

The reporters unanimously selected Stroud as the conference’s offensive player of the year, predicting he’ll only progress in his second season as quarterback for Day and the Buckeyes.

“From about 2012 onward, we could just write Ohio State quarterback [insert name] for this question,” Iowa beat writer Scott Dochterman wrote when asked who will win offensive player of the year. “That’s true this year, too. Stroud put up some outrageous numbers in the Rose Bowl and should do the same this year, even against one of the nation’s toughest schedules.”

Dochterman’s comments about Ohio State quarterbacks winning the Big Ten offensive player of the year award each season aren’t hyperbole. In fact, a Buckeye signal-caller has received the honor six times since 2012, with four straight wins from Dwayne Haskins (2018), Justin Fields (2019 and 2020) and Stroud (2021). Braxton Miller also won the award in 2012 and 2013.

When an Ohio State quarterback didn’t win offensive player of the year, that honor went to Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon (2014), Ezekiel Elliott (2015) and Penn State running back Saquon Barkley (2016 and 2017). Each of those players had All-American caliber seasons.

All five beat reporters chose the Buckeyes to win the Big Ten title in 2022 and believe Ohio State will claim its sixth conference championship in nine years.

 SONG OF THE DAY. “Hold In, Hold On” by Kid Bloom.

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