Skull Session: Kirk Herbstreit Talks Ohio State-Michigan Rivalry, Brett McMurphy Thinks the Buckeyes Will Miss the CFP and EA Sports College Football Will Be Glorious

By Chase Brown on May 18, 2023 at 5:00 am
Kirk Herbstreit

Welcome to the Skull Session.

There's lots of Ohio State-Michigan discussion in today's article. But before we get to all that good stuff, check out this cool graphic of Julian Fleming.

Let's have a good Thursday, shall we?

 KIRK TALKS THE GAME. Few have had the love and affinity for Ohio State as Kirk Herbstreit. The son of Jim Herbstreit, a captain on the 1960 football Buckeyes, Kirk always dreamed of wearing the scarlet and gray. When that opportunity arrived in the late 80s, he ran with it, following in his father's footsteps at Ohio State as a captain for the 1992 squad.

Three decades later, Herbstreit is a veteran broadcaster for ESPN, working as an analyst for College GameDay and a color commentator for ABC/ESPN's primetime broadcasts. While Herbstreit remains objective in his work for the worldwide leader in sports, he'll field questions about his beloved Buckeyes from time to time, reflecting on his time at the university and the current state of the program.

The most recent example of this was Tuesday, when Herbstreit and former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel headlined a dinner benefitting the Historic South Initiative at the Pinnacle in Toledo, Ohio. There, Herbstreit spoke with Eleven Warriors alum and current Toledo Blade writer Kyle Rowland about Ohio State, Michigan and The Game, among other topics.

Here is some of the back-and-forth between Herbstreit and Rowland at the event:

The Blade: These last two decades, Ohio State has had an unprecedented era of success. Expectations are through the roof. Two straight losses to Michigan and the playoff loss, fans are after Ryan Day. How big of a year do you think this is for him and the program?

Herbstreit: I think because, as you mentioned, from 2001 through the game in 2021, Ohio State’s had an unprecedented run of success against Michigan. Before that, it was Michigan that had the run on Ohio State. So I think Ohio State fans — especially with social media — have really gotten to a point where they’re spoiled with just assuming that game was going to be a win.

If you look at over 100 years of history, it’s always an ebb and flow. There are games that Michigan, I’m sure, thought they could have won and games that Ohio State thought they could have won. At the end of the day, I’m sure Ryan Day would be the first guy to tell you — I don’t think his job is on the line — that momentum has shifted to Ann Arbor. There’s an opportunity for Ohio State to put the brakes on that.


The Blade: At this moment, do you think [Michigan] should be the Big Ten favorite?

Herbstreit: They get the Ohio State game at home. You obviously have to look at those two, and it’s a coin flip. The fact that the game is in Ann Arbor with the team they have coming back, I have no problem thinking they would have an edge.

They lost a lot of great players. Ohio State lost a lot of great players. You know how it is, we’re sitting here in May. You have true freshmen who are coming in. You have transfer portal guys. How the teams gel in August. How they get started in their non-conference games. On paper, it’s a coin flip. If the game was in Columbus, maybe you give an edge to Ohio State.

The Blade: I feel like there aren’t many people that have the appreciation and reverence for the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry that you do. Maybe you’d prefer Ohio State didn’t get drilled the past two years, but how much do you enjoy that it is back?

Herbstreit: I love it. I was there that day when Michigan won in the snow [in 2021] and I actually had to leave just after halftime. I was actually in the tunnel when that fight started because I had to fly to whatever game I was calling that night.

My twins are 22, my next son is 20, and my next son is 16. I had to teach them and brainwash them about Ohio State-Michigan. But they didn’t have the pain in their entire lives. We used to always kid, what’s your record now? And they’d be like 13-1, 17-2. And I’d be like, guys, this isn’t normal. You need pain. You need to realize that when Ohio State takes the field and has everything on the line and they lose in Ann Arobor and you hear that song, then you’ll be crying and you’ll understand what that rivalry is about.

And they've felt it the last two years, especially one of my sons who’s on the team. I think fans that are younger that forgot about the ’90s are being reminded, oh my gosh, we really don’t like them. This is what the rivalry is. This is what it’s supposed to be, to feel some pain along the way. It reminds you what makes this thing so good.

To summarize, Herbstreit believes Ohio State fans are spoiled.

Wait, let me restart. That wouldn't be fair.

Herbstreit believes a natural ebb and flow has occurred in the Ohio State-Michigan matchup. With Michigan winning in back-to-back meetings, the Wolverines control the rivalry. However, the Buckeyes can take it back in 2023 with a victory in Ann Arbor. At this moment – that is, in May – Herbstreit sees the winner of that contest as a coin flip.

As for his final comments on The Game, which are probably the most controversial for Buckeye fans, Herbstreit believes Michigan beating Ohio State is good for the rivalry: "This is what the rivalry is. This is what it’s supposed to be, to feel some pain along the way. It reminds you what makes this thing so good."

Some agree with that sentiment. Others... disagree.

Wherever one stands, Herbstreit provided the blueprint for the Ohio State football program and its fans to move forward from the dark times: Win. When the Buckeyes beat the Wolverines in 2023, they'll retake control of the rivalry, and everyone in Buckeye Nation will be reminded of "what makes this thing so good."

The Game is 191 days away.

 THAT'S FUNNY. I know you all love Brett McMurphy, so here is a reason to love him even more: He picked Michigan to beat Ohio State back-to-back-to-back in 2023. That pick wasn't explicit, so maybe offer him some grace, but we can read between the lines in his "never-too-early" bowl projections for next season:

  • Rose Bowl (CFP): Michigan vs. Florida State
  • Sugar Bowl (CFP): Georgia vs. Washington
  • Peach Bowl: LSU vs. Penn State
  • Fiesta Bowl: Oregon vs. Tulane
  • Cotton Bowl: Texas Tech vs. Alabama
  • Orange Bowl: Clemson vs. Ohio State

Unless McMurphy thinks Ohio State will lose to Notre Dame, Wisconsin and/or Penn State this fall, a CFP berth for Michigan compared to an Orange Bowl appearance for Ohio State sure looks like a third consecutive loss in The Game for the Buckeyes.

Sure, Ohio State has a lot to prove in 2023 with uncertainties about who will win the quarterback competition between Kyle McCord and Devin Brown, who will start on the offensive line beyond Donovan Jackson and Matt Jones and whether or not the defense will live up to its standards in Jim Knowles' second season as defensive coordinator.

Still, I would argue the Buckeyes are the more talented team than Michigan from top to bottom. If Ryan Day and Co. can find the correct formula early and often in 2023, there's no reason they can't win The Game in Ann Arbor. If they do, that could mean Ohio State in the Rose Bowl and a potential rematch with Georgia  – this time in the national championship. That would be some real popcorn-consuming material.

 IT'S IN THE GAME. For the first time ever, Ohio State football players will be a college football game. On Wednesday, ESPN's Michael Rothstein reported that EA Sports College Football will have the name, image and likeness of FBS players when the game releases next summer, as EA Sports has officially partnered with OneTeam to handle NIL rights.

That's correct. We will no longer have to look up YouTube videos and find gamertags to update rosters on our Xbox 360s or PlayStation 3s. Those archaic days will be behind us soon. In 2024, we will turn on our consoles and voila, every player from Ohio State's roster will be available with an accurate name, image and likeness to the real-life athletes from the program, should those players agree to the terms OneTeam presents, that is.

OneTeam, for those wondering, is a company that has previously worked with professional players' unions like the NFLPA, MLSPA and USWNT Players Association to help EA Sports produce and release its Madden football and FIFA franchises. It's a legit company with the resources necessary to deliver an excellent product to fans of this beautiful sport.

However, that doesn't mean the process won't have a few hiccups.

Finer details, such as how much compensation an athlete will receive and the structure of those payments, are still in process. EA Sports and OneTeam will also do their best to have face scans for every player before the 2024 release, but there are thousands of college football players in the 133 FBS programs, so the companies probably won't reach everyone. The good news? There is no chance Ohio State gets lost in the mix. We picked the right school to invest in.

All in all, I can't wait for next summer. I'll create a dynasty with Ohio State and win a thousand national titles like I did when I was little. Maybe I will start one with UMass this time and work my way up the ladder. Who knows? The possibilities are endless.

 CARRYING THE TORCH. The last section for this Skull Session is dedicated to Jayden Clarett, daughter of former Ohio State running back and national champion Maurice Clarett. Last week, Jayden graduated from the Columbus School for Girls at 16 years old. She will now fulfill her childhood dream of attending THE Ohio State University.

That accomplishment made Maurice a proud #GirlDad.

"When I was little and told that I would graduate at 16, I never really thought anything of it," Jayden said in the graphic her father posted. "Now that it is happening, I see how cool it is!"

That rocks. Congrats, Jayden.

 SONG OF THE DAY. "Crazy Train" by Ozzy Osbourne.

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