Skull Session: Ohio State's Future Rivalries in the Big Ten Look Great, Joe Burrow Invests in the Pro Volleyball Federation and Mitchell Pehlke is a Multi-Sport Athlete

By Chase Brown on February 20, 2023 at 5:00 am
Ryan Day / Jim Harbaugh
Joseph Maiorana / USA TODAY Sports

No matter when or where it is performed, Script Ohio will always be one of the best traditions in all of sports.

That was true Saturday as the Ohio State marching band performed it in an outdoor hockey rink inside FirstEnergy Stadium during an intermission of the men's hockey team battle with Michigan in the "Faceoff on the Ice."

 B1G RIVALRIES. When USC and UCLA officially become members of the Big Ten in 2024, the conference is expected to abandon divisional play after 13 years, including three with the "Legends and Leaders" divisions and 10 with location-based divisions.

The Big Ten's replacement for divisions would be a 3-6-6 scheduling plan during a four-year period that would allow teams to play three opponents annually for four years and the other 12 teams twice (in a home-and-home series) across four years. The annual opponents would include a mix of permanent, long-standing rivalries (like The Game between Ohio State and Michigan) that will last indefinitely and other series that will rotate.

With this expected change in mind, The Athletic's college football staff asked its readers from different Big Ten fanbases to rank the three opponents they would want to see their team face every season from 2024-27. Here are Ohio State's results, which will likely come as no surprise:

  • Choice 1: Michigan 1,623; Penn State 22
  • Choice 2: Penn State 962; USC 276; Michigan State 225; Illinois 84
  • Choice 3: USC 558; Penn State 374; Michigan State 177; Illinois 127

From The Athletic's article:

There were no shockers in Ohio State’s top two choices. Michigan at No. 1 is no surprise with the rating success of the rivalry game last year. Ohio State is in a peculiar spot going into next season after losing two games in a row in the series. It needs to take control of the rivalry again.

Penn State was second for the first choice but ran away with the second-choice votes. The Nittany Lions have played Ohio State well recently, but the Buckeyes have still won the past six contests. This is also an important game for Ohio State. It gives it an important game on its College Football Playoff resume every year.

The third option was a Big Ten newcomer, USC. This game would draw national interest every year. There were a few other programs mentioned, and even UCLA got votes. The two games that are a must should be Penn State and Michigan, but the third option is up in the air. Michigan State makes sense regionally, but it might be hard for the Big Ten to pass up the annual USC-Ohio State ratings.

Michigan, Penn State and USC. Those feel like the three clear choices, don't they?

The Game has been the greatest rivalry in all of sports for 118 years and will remain that for the rest of time, making Michigan the obvious first choice. Penn State appropriately placed second here as it is the preexisting "rival" for Ohio State, providing the Buckeyes will wire-to-wire battles for most of the last decade. As for the third choice, well, this is where the picks become a matter of preference.

USC will be the shiny new toy in the Big Ten when the Trojans join the league in 2024. The program's decorated history and recent success will make it an attractive option to pair with Ohio State, as the matchup will likely be a top-10 battle annually for fans and the conference's media partners – the companies that will pay billions of dollars to Big Ten until the 2029 – to reap the benefits from over four years.

However, as reflected in The Athletic's poll, there will be those that would rather see Ohio State face its more traditional opponents, such as Michigan State and Illinois (rest in peace, Illibuck), over USC. That's fine, and I respect the take, but the media partners mentioned above won't. They want dollar bills, and Ohio State vs. USC brings in a whole lot more of those than the proposed alternatives. So be prepared to see the Coliseum a lot until 2027.

 JOE BURROW, EVERYONE. Late last week, the Pro Volleyball Federation (PVF) announced Columbus as its fourth market for its inaugural season in 2024, with the Jeff and Beth Gilger family picked to run the first women's professional sports team in the city.

The PVF was co-founded by Dave Whinham, president and CEO of Columbus-based The TEAM Management, and Stephen Evans. But they recently received some high-profile help: Former Ohio State and current Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow and his parents, Jimmy and Robin.

From Doug Greenberg of Front Office Sports:

“My family and I are thrilled to put our support behind this great opportunity for world-class volleyball athletes,” Burrow said. “No one ever achieves greatness without first being provided an opportunity. Pro Volleyball Federation is opening the door, and we are excited to see these athletes chase their dreams and goals.”

In addition to its franchise in Ohio's capital, the PVF will also have teams in Atlanta and Grand Rapids, Michigan. The league hopes to have as many as 10 teams across the country before games start next year, with operations based out of two locations: Frisco, Texas, where Evans resides, and Columbus, where Whinham lives.

Whinham told Front Office Sports he plans to use his prior relationship and proximity to the Burrows to help build and expand the league over the next few months, as he believes the family is excited about the direction of PVF and its vision.

“We are honored to add Joe, Jimmy, and Robin to our outstanding group of Founding Partners,” Whinham said. “I have known Jimmy for a long time, and during the time we have worked to build this league, the Burrow family has become extremely passionate about our collective vision to grow a league based on quality, viability, fairness, and treating our players the right way.”

I love this.

Volleyball is one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States in youth participation, college viewership, pro leagues and Olympic success. Add another league and associate it with a man who possesses the Midas touch like Joe Burrow – seriously, Burrow may be the most likable athlete in America right now – and the sport will only continue its rapid rise.

Also, for PVF to put a team in Columbus is an out-of-the-park home run. The city is familiar with elite volleyball due to the success of the Ohio State men's and women's volleyball teams over the years. If the Covelli Center sells out every time these teams play, you can be sure Columbus will do the same for the PVF team when it arrives in 2024.

 TOUR DE OHIO STATE ATHLETICS. Men's lacrosse player Mitchell Pehlke has been one of the preeminent Ohio State athletes regarding NIL opportunities over the last 19 months. However, his profits haven't come from deals with local car brands or retail companies. Instead, they come from his YouTube channel.

Pehlke, a senior attacker from Leesburg, Virginia, has created videos since he was a senior in high school. Five years later, his YouTube and other social media accounts have become an incredible career opportunity – one he maximizes by offering his viewers an inside look at the life of a Division I athlete for the Buckeyes.

In one of Pehlke's recent videos, he took a tour of several Ohio State athletic facilities. He learned the basics of several sports at the university, including tennis from Kolie Allen, wrestling from Kaleb Romero, golf from Jackson Chandler, gymnastics from Justin Ah Chow, fencing from Jack Price, basketball from Jacy Sheldon, swimming from Josephine Panitz, pistol from Maria Tsarik and football from Dallan Hayden.

Two thoughts that came to mind while watching the video were:

  1. Ohio State's facilities have to be some of the nicest in the nation. The Ty Tucker Tennis Center, the Jennings, the Covelli, the Ohio State Golf Course, Steelwood, the McCorkle, the Schott and the Woody are featured in the video, and they are all fabulous.
  2. To whom much is given, much will be required. These athletes are the best in the nation. They are treated like the best athletes in the nation. Time to win some championships and make Buckeye Nation proud.

 #SPARTANSTRONG. Last week, Ohio State athletics supported Michigan State on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook after a mass shooting on the school's campus that killed three students and left five more injured in critical condition.

In the aftermath of the tragic event, Michigan State canceled all athletic events for two days, and the university canceled all classes until Monday. As students returned to campus on Sunday, however, Ohio State had another message for the Spartans, except this time, it wasn't sent via social media.

The act of kindness was met with tremendous response from Michigan State students, alum and fans.

Indeed. Well done, Ohio State. Well done. It brings a smile to my face to see the Buckeyes continue to be #SpartanStrong. May we all do the same during this challenging time for the Michigan State community.

Tell someone you love them today.

 SONG OF THE DAY. "The View Between Villages" by Noah Kahan.

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