Skull Session: Ohio State Scored a Lot of Touchdowns on Michigan in 2018, Marvin Harrison Jr. Will Be an X Factor in The Game and Terry McLaurin Eats Some Humble Pie

By Chase Brown on November 24, 2022 at 5:00 am
Terry McLaurin

Welcome to the Thanksgiving Skull Session. The Game is two days away.

To start, I want to thank everyone for welcoming me into the Eleven Warriors community over the last four months. It has been the opportunity of a lifetime, and I cannot express my gratitude enough that you read my Skull Sessions. It truly is an honor to work and write for you!

Today, make sure to tell someone you love them and that you are thankful for them. We could all use a little love and compassion, so show that to another person as often as possible. Heck, make that a part of your daily routine. Imagine how that could change the trajectory of every day!

Once again, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. A million times, thank you. You are all the best Ohio State fans around.

Let's have a good Thanksgiving, shall we?

 TOUCHDOWNS... EVERYWHERE. There’s no better way to put everyone in a good mood than to show the highlights from Ohio State's 62-39 win over Michigan in the 2018 edition of The Game, which was also the last time the rivalry was played in Columbus.

The Buckeyes scored a lot of touchdowns in that contest. Like, a lot of touchdowns. And Blake Haubeil added two field goals, too! Care if we watch all of Ohio State's scoring plays together?

What a game. Dwayne Haskins threw five touchdowns, Chris Olave emerged in a breakout game, Parris Campbell reached Mach 1 for a 71-yard score and so much more. All of it was absolutely beautiful.

If Ohio State's performance on Saturday looks anything like this – oooooooh-weeeee – we will have some fun. How about this? C.J. Stroud throws five touchdowns, Dallan Hayden emerges in (another) breakout game and Emeka Egbuka (or maybe Xavier Johnson) reaches Mach 1 on a long touchdown.

Does that sound cool to everyone? It certainly does to me.

 A PROVE-IT GAME. Marvin Harrison Jr. has been one of the best wide receivers in America this season. On Saturday, he can indisputably prove that he is college football's best pass catcher when Ohio State faces Michigan's top-ranked total defense (241.3 yards per game) and second-ranked passing efficiency defense (100.5).

But how exactly would that happen?

The Athletic's Mike Kuchar believes Michigan's defensive game plan might allow Harrison to have one-on-one matchups against its cornerbacks on the outside, which will favor the player nicknamed Route Man Marv:

For the first time all season, Michigan will face a top-10 quarterback and a top-10 receiver, who just happen to be on the same team. But don’t expect a Wolverines defense that is first in the country in total defense and second in passing efficiency defense to change what they do. And what Michigan does is play single-high-safety defense, utilizing either Cover 1 or Cover 3 on 47 percent of snaps this season.

This means there will be matchups opportunities on the perimeter for Harrison, who will likely will draw either senior corner Mike Sainristil, who has allowed 65 percent of targets to be caught against him, or Gemon Green, who at 6-2 may have the range to contest some of those deep throws. While he’s allowed only a 48 percent completion rate, Green struggled against Michigan State earlier in the year, giving up 20 yards per reception on those deep balls. Another option for the Wolverines is to put DJ Turner, their best cover player but who usually defends in the slot, outside on Harrison.

Regardless, Michigan will play man; it’s what the Wolverines do.

An unnamed defensive coordinator who has faced Ohio State this season told Kuchar that Michigan would run man because it allows the Wolverines to place another defender in the box to make the Buckeyes “one-dimensional in the run game,” adding that it will test a younger back like Dallan Hayden, who has picked up a significant workload with TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams dealing with various ailments.

The injury problems at running back for the Buckeyes may provide some opportunities for Michigan defensive coordinator Jesse Minter to mix in some two-high looks in early run downs to provide help on Harrison in the quick game and get the Buckeyes into third-and-long, where Stroud has targeted Harrison on 37 percent of snaps. It’s the opportune time to bring pressure and force the ball out.

“Now you can be creative with what you want to do there,” said another Big Ten defensive coach familiar with the Buckeyes. “You can’t be stagnant against Ohio State. Eventually, you’ll need to pressure, which forces the one-on-one match-ups. If you don’t pressure them, they will sit back and pick you apart because their athletes are better. You have to find the medium behind playing some coverage and bracketing Marvin.”

With that said, the result of The Game may be determined – at least from the Ohio State offense vs. Michigan defense perspective – by how much pressure the Wolverines can apply on C.J. Stroud in the backfield. But even then, will pressure be able to stop a Heisman Trophy frontrunner and Biletnikoff semifinalist? 

Harrison will get his touches on Saturday. He always does. The question is whether the Michigan defense has the patience to keep everything in front of it and challenge Ohio State to complete those timing routes and back-shoulder throws at a consistent rate — without giving up the big plays that change the course of the game. It’s something that no defense has been able to do so far this season.

The Wolverines don't have an answer for Marvelous Marv. And quite frankly, neither does any other program across the country. He is the best receiver in America, and he will prove that again this weekend in The Game – the biggest stage in all of sports.

 THE RIVALRY NEVER ENDS. As two of college football's blue blood programs, Ohio State and Michigan have talent littered throughout the 32 franchises that make up the NFL. Because of that, there are a lot of former Buckeyes and Wolverines who are teammates in the league.

To achieve a common goal of winning a Super Bowl with their team, those teammates must put aside their disdain for one another. But, of course, it's healthy to have some back-and-forth banter between the players when rivalry weeks rolls around.

That's at least what Terry McLaurin would say. Well... maybe.

ESPN's John Keim wrote about how college rivalries spill into NFL locker rooms, and McLaurin's story was the first story featured in the article:

The shirt did not look right on Washington Commanders receiver Terry McLaurin, but a bet's a bet.

He put on Michigan colors. A player reared in scarlet and gray now had to don maize and blue thanks to Ohio State's loss to the Wolverines last year. Two days after the game, McLaurin showed up in a team meeting wearing the Michigan top with teammate Khaleke Hudson's name and No. 7 on the back.

It's a ritual that plays out in every NFL locker room during the season, a player losing a bet because the college he played for lost to another teammate's school. It's not about money changing hands; it's about pride. It's about showing up in another team's shirt -- or overalls. Maybe it's the joy of seeing another player proclaiming on video that the other side is the best. Or maybe it's seeing even the GOAT (referring to Tom Brady) can be humbled.

It appears that even McLaurin – one of the most humble people on the planet – finds it hard to take a slice of humble pie. He almost didn't wear the jersey for that meeting because putting on the maize and blue colors made him want to vomit.

"For me to pose in Michigan blue? That's nasty," McLaurin said, repeating the last line a couple of times for emphasis.

Of course, one of the first teammates to comment on McLaurin's shirt was Commanders long-snapper Camaron Cheeseman, who also played at Michigan.

"You look good wearing our colors," Cheeseman told him.

Even now, McLaurin shudders when retelling the story.

"It was kind of embarrassing," McLaurin said. "But that's why guys do it, because your money, that comes and goes, but the bragging rights, you wearing the other team's gear and possibly having to post it on social media. ... I definitely would rather lose my money than come in here in that Michigan blue, like last year."

While it's embarrassing for McLaurin to wear a Michigan jersey, the former Ohio State receiver has the ultimate bragging rights regarding the rivalry. During his five years in Columbus, he was a perfect 5-0 against the Wolverines.

McLaurin's final words in the argument with Hudson were:

"I hate to be this guy, they beat us, but I'm like, 'When I was there you didn't beat me Khaleke.' I ride with Ohio State, so they lost. But when I was there, I got five gold pants if we're going to really count it," McLaurin said, referring to the gold charms given to Buckeyes players for beating Michigan.

That's a mic drop if I've ever heard one.

 THANKSGIVING PLATE. Today's “This and That” section will be called "Thanksgiving plate" because, honestly, it's an excellent way of labeling what this blurb will accomplish.

This afternoon or evening, you will probably load your plate with turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, green beans, mac and cheese, etc., to create a wonderful meal. In the same way, I have loaded this section with football, men's basketball, women's basketball and women's cross country to create a wonderful end to my Skull Session.

First, Dallan Hayden's performance in the Maryland game was something to behold. He talked about his efforts against the Terrapins in the most recent edition of "Stories Behind the Stickers."

Second, Justice Sueing is back. That man was a bucket and a problem against No. 21 Texas Tech, dropping 33 points on the Red Raiders in the Maui Invitational, which took place in his home state of Hawaii.

Third, the women's basketball team defeated Wright State (Wrong School), 105-52, on Wednesday. The Buckeyes were without star guard Jacy Sheldon, but that didn't matter. That is unless you're keeping track of forced turnovers. Ohio State finished with 23 takeaways in the contest, but imagine how Sheldon and her 6.8 steals per game would have added to that number!

Fourth and finally, Ohio State cross country runner Addie Engel won the Big Ten’s Athlete of the Year Award on Wednesday. Last weekend at the NCAA Championships, Engel placed 10th at 19:50.4. Her performance led the Buckeyes to a 15th-place finish as a team. Engel was also the first-ever Buckeye to win the Big Ten Cross Country Championships, clocking in at 20:00.

Alright, folks, that's it for me on this Turkey Day. Thank you again for reading the Skull Sessions. You are all rock stars. I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

See you tomorrow.

 SONG OF THE DAY. “Thanksgiving Song” by Adam Sandler.

 CUT TO THE CHASE. Alaska firefighters help rescue a moose trapped in a home... Cat’s out of the bag when TSA finds stowaway feline at JFK... Space diversity: Europe’s space agency gets 1st parastronaut... The 20 best Thanksgiving TV episodes of all time, from Peanuts to "Friends"... Thanksgiving dinner or five Big Macs?

View 94 Comments