Skull Session: C.J. Stroud is the Heisman Frontrunner, the Big Ten Might Expand Again and Ryan Day and Chris Holtmann Understand Coaching

By Chase Brown on September 29, 2022 at 5:00 am
C.J. Stroud

Several times throughout an Ohio State football game, C.J. Stroud does something that wows Buckeye fans.

The oooooooooos and aaaahhhhhhs flow in abundance as the redshirt sophomore quarterback perfectly fits a pass in between two defenders or seamlessly hits a receiver in stride.

It's things like that, combined with some absurd statistics, which make Stroud a Heisman Trophy favorite after the first four games of the 2022 season.

Knowing what we know about Stroud and the Buckeye offense, I think it's safe to say we will see the Southern California native in New York City in December.

But I digress.

Let's have a good Thursday, shall we?

 EXPANSION ON THE HORIZON? The whole talk of conference expansion sounds like a broken record at this point. The Big Ten and the SEC are the most significant beneficiaries as the Pac-12 and Big 12 battle for survival. And the ACC – well, nobody seems to care.

On Wednesday, the latest expansion report came from CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd, who reported the Big Ten is seeking a media rights deal with Amazon that could potentially strip the Pac-12 of the most valuable schools still left in the conference.

The Big Ten’s continued pursuit of four Pac-12 schools is leading to concern that another round of expansion could collapse the Pac-12, industry sources tell CBS Sports. This as Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren continues to seek an offer from Amazon, or potentially another partner, for additional Big Ten football media rights revenue.
An offer deemed substantial enough would likely convince Big Ten presidents that California, Oregon, Stanford and Washington would be valuable additions to the league from the Pac-12. That figure is believed to be less than $100 million annually.

Suppose the Big Ten added California, Oregon, Stanford and Washington to its ranks. In that case, the conference would have successfully poached six schools, including USC and UCLA, from the Pac-12 within months. At the same time, commissioner Kevin Warren will have expanded the number of member institutions from 14 to 20.

Dodd poses his own question in the article, asking what value the Golden Bears, Ducks, Cardinal and Huskies would bring to the Big Ten. He then provides a straightforward answer, revealing that these schools have nothing the conference desires at first glance.

However, Warren’s play may be to get in on the ground floor with Amazon during a time in which when streaming is further catching up with linear cable. That hasn’t happened yet despite Amazon’s NFL ratings success this season with “Thursday Night Football.”

Adding four more Pac-12 schools would result in expanded Big Ten content, giving the conference approximately 112 games annually. Amazon, or the newest media partner, would likely get the fifth, sixth or seventh pick of a Big Ten home game each week.

One industry observer compared the level of potentially available content equal to what is currently shown weekly on the Big Ten Network. Think about games like California vs. Rutgers, Northwestern vs. Stanford and Oregon vs. Indiana. (As CBS Sports reported last week, the newest media partner would not get any games involving Michigan, Ohio State or Penn State.)

While further Big Ten expansion isn’t necessarily imminent, this development is something to keep tabs on moving forward, as the Big Ten could (and likely will) have a few more schools on the West Coast in the future.

Another important note in Dodd’s reporting is a new media partner would not have access to Buckeye games, which means you won’t have to watch them play on a paywalled streaming service like Amazon Prime Video or Apple TV+. Quite frankly, Ohio State is too significant a brand to place anywhere other than national television, and it's nice to see the Big Ten understands that.

 ONE FATAL FLAW. As the Skull Session writer, I've learned that many of you aren't fans of ESPN, but I would encourage you to appreciate and respect the work of Bill Connelly, a writer who uses analytics and data as the driving source for his work.

In a recent article for ESPN, Connelly broke down the potential flaws of the 16 College Football Playoff contenders and claimed Ohio State’s most likely chink in the armor – not surprisingly – comes on the defensive side of the ball.

Fatal flaw: The defense gets burned (and is still a sieve in the red zone). Hiring Jim Knowles as defensive coordinator means signing up for some all-or-nothing tendencies. You're going to force a lot of three-and-outs, but when opponents make a big play, it's going to be a big play. Ohio State has allowed only 36 gains of 10-plus yards in four games (16th in FBS) but has allowed four gains of 50-plus (eighth worst). Enough of those, and even the best offense in the country – something the Buckeyes quite likely have now that C.J. Stroud and the passing game have found fifth gear – might struggle to keep up.

Granted, the Big Ten isn't the worst place to live for teams that are vulnerable to explosive plays. But it's still a vulnerability!

It's a legitimate concern from Connelly, but it's not something Knowles doesn't already know. In fact, it's something of which the first-year Ohio State defensive coordinator is keenly aware. He understands big plays are possible with the scheme he installs, but that won't faze him or his players.

All that matters for Knowles and the Buckeye defense is that Ohio State comes out with a victory. To their credit, the defense has been much improved from last season, as the unit ranks 18th in total defense and 21st in scoring defense through the first four weeks.

As time progresses, Knowles and his staff can fix the big-play problem. Right now, it’s about ensuring every player is on the same page and taking everything one rep or play at a time.

 YOU WIN WITH PEOPLE. I mentioned in a Skull Session earlier this month that Woody Hayes’ “You win with people” quote must remain at the front of Gene Smith and the Ohio State athletic department's minds when they hire coaches.

In under 24 hours, Ryan Day and Chris Holtmann were asked similar questions about their teams and how they coach their players. Both Day and Holtmann’s answers did well to reflect their character, reminding Buckeye Nation that the football and men's basketball program are in good hands with these people as the leaders.

Day is right that every coach, player and fan wants their team to win. However, it is ultimately the responsibility of a coach to teach a player to learn and a fan to appreciate the results. While those responsibilities can be easily forgotten, they are what makes a sport fun for all.

Cheers to Day and Holtmann for being phenomenal leaders of their programs. It's clear to me that they have their priorities in order and understand their role as coaches. May much fruit be produced from that labor.

 OLYMPIC VILLAGE. Maxwell Moldovan has created quite the legacy for himself as a men's golfer at Ohio State. The Uniontown, Ohio, native has paced the Buckeyes in each of the last two seasons, consistently providing his team with strong outings on the links.

Over the weekend, Moldovan carded his fourth round in the 60s this season and 28th of his career – the most of any golfer in program history dating back to 1978. That accomplishment caught the attention of many, including University President Kristina M. Johnson.

Moldovan was a third-team All-American, a PING All-Midwest Region team member and a first-team All-Big Ten selection last season after winning three tournaments as an individual. In the summer, Moldovan qualified for the US Open by shooting a 5-under par 135 at Springfield Country Club and competed in several other amateur tournaments.

This fall, Moldovan has paced the Buckeyes with a 69.5 scoring average at the Frederica Cup and Inverness Intercollegiate, finishing tied for the 13th in the former and tied for third in the latter as Ohio State took sixth and seventh place, respectively.

Props to Max for his efforts and may there be more records broken in the fall and spring.

 SONG OF THE DAY. “What You Know” by Two Door Cinema Club.

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