Skull Session: Ohio State is "Laser-Focused" On Notre Dame, Kyle McCord Looks Good As QB1 and the RB Room Has a New Pecking Order

By Chase Brown on September 18, 2023 at 5:00 am
TreVeyon Henderson
Adam Cairns / Columbus Dispatch

Welcome to the Skull Session.

Ohio State is 3-0. And what's the best thing about that?

Let's have a good Monday, shall we?

 "WE'RE READY TO PLAY THEM." After Ohio State defeated Western Kentucky on Saturday, wide receiver Emeka Egbuka said the Buckeyes were already "laser-focused" on Notre Dame, revealing that the program started preparing for the top-10 showdown before Week 3.

"We love big games. We love matchup games," Egbuka said. "That's why you come to Ohio State is to play Notre Dame in South Bend. We've already started on them. We weren't looking past Western Kentucky by any means, but this one's a big game. We will celebrate this win, but we're all laser-focused, and we're ready to play them."

After Ohio State defeated Notre Dame 21-10 in the 2022 season opener in Columbus, it's fantastic to hear that the Buckeyes have had the utmost urgency in planning for the rematch in South Bend. It's also fantastic that Ohio State will arrive in the land of "God. Country. Football." coming off its most impressive win of the season.

As for what made the Buckeyes' 63-10 win impressive – besides the fact that it was a 53-point victory – here is Egbuka to explain the reasons better than I ever could.

"The energy was better from all units," he said. "Special teams, offense, defense, we were making plays. We were flying around. I think a big part is we were having fun. We weren't playing tight. We were playing loose. We were able to play for each other and just put it all out there on the field. That's what you guys saw today."

Ohio State had energy. Ohio State made plays. Ohio State flew around. And most importantly, Ohio State had fun.

"To have fun, that's why you get into this sport in the first place," Egbuka said. "You never want to lose that."

Football is fun! And if Ohio State having fun leads to blowout victories, then the Buckeyes should have fun more often! Preferably this weekend in South Bend!

 KYLE MCCORD, QB1. After Ohio State head coach Ryan Day named Kyle McCord the Buckeyes' full-time starter last week, the 6-foot-3, 216-pound quarterback immediately rewarded him for that decision with a dominant performance on Saturday.

The Eleven Warriors' offensive player of the game, McCord completed 19 of 23 passes for 318 yards and three touchdowns in the contest – a 75-yard score to Marvin Harrison Jr. and two red-zone strikes to Emeka Egbuka. All three of McCord's touchdowns occurred in Ohio State's impressive 35-point second quarter.

McCord's performance reminded us of what an Ohio State offense can look like with a full-time, five-star quarterback under center – or, in other words, what Ohio State's offense has looked like ever since Ryan Day came to Columbus in 2017.

In his postgame press conference, McCord said Ohio State's offense made a statement on Saturday, one to "put the word out there, that we back up."

"We knew if we went out and we could put together a complete game, it would look really, really good,” McCord said. “If we were able to run the ball well, if we were able to pass the ball well, we would be one of the best offenses, if not the best offense in America."

You heard the man. THE best offense in America. And why not? McCord, TreVeyon Henderson, Chip Trayanum, Marvin Harrison Jr., Emeka Egbuka, Julian Fleming and Cade Stover have all excelled at one point or another, and if Ohio State can sure up the offensive line (which performed well on Saturday!), the Buckeyes have what it takes to end the season as the nation's best offense. And at this point, isn't that the standard?

 WHERE IS MIYAN? This could be a classic Overreaction Monday take, but as Ohio State heads into its Week 4 matchup with Notre Dame, Ryan Day and Tony Alford's running back room appears to have a new pecking order: TreVeyon Henderson, Chip Trayanum... some considerable space... and then Miyan Williams.

Henderson is Ohio State's clear-cut RB1 and carried the ball 13 times for 88 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday. His performance continued an early-season hot streak that has reminded the college football world how talented the All-Big Ten running back can be when he doesn't have torn ligaments in his foot.

I mean, look at how fast he turned that corner!

As for Ohio State's clear-cut RB2, I believe Trayanum has that spot locked up for now. The running back-turned-linebacker-turned-running back has looked excellent after three weeks, and, while not confirmed by Dan Hope's award-winning Snap Counts, Trayanum appeared to receive several more snaps than Williams on Saturday. Even more important was what Trayanum did with those snaps, as he recorded five carries for 56 yards and one touchdown versus the Hilltoppers.

But where was Williams? After collecting 128 carries for 825 yards and 14 touchdowns across 11 appearances last season, the Cincinnati native had become a Pete Johnson-like running back in 2023, entering the game in goal-line situations and powering the ball into the end zone. He scored two touchdowns like that in Week 1 and added another in Week 2; however, the latter score was called back due to an erroneous penalty call that nullified the touchdown.

Yet, I wonder – is that all Williams will be for Ohio State this season, a bruiser near the goal line? Perhaps. But the college football season is long, and we all know how fast bumps and bruises can deplete the number of ball carriers in a running back room *knocks on wood*, so Williams must be ready when called upon. However, if all remains the same and the running backs remain healthy, Henderson and Trayanum look like the top two names on the depth chart for the Buckeyes from here on out.

 FRESHMAN PHENOMS. By all accounts, Carnell Tate and Jermaine Mathews Jr. are destined for incredible futures at Ohio State, with the latest evidence of that soon-to-be reality occurring on Saturday.

Around the start of the fourth quarter, Tate received a short pass from Devin Brown and ran 12 yards for an Ohio State first down. Two plays later, Brown and Tate connected for a second time, a 28-yard touchdown pass that marked the first-career score for the sophomore quarterback and freshman wide receiver.

Also worth a mention: Carnell Tate recovered a Cade Stover fumble in the second half, a heads-up play that showed the Chicago native and IMG Academy product isn't afraid to hustle when the team needs him to.

As for Mathews, the 5-foot-11, 182-pound cornerback showed some of the skills that made him the No. 51 overall prospect in the class of 2023 as he intercepted a pass from Western Kentucky backup quarterback Bronson Barron and returned it 58 yards for an Ohio State touchdown.

After the game, cornerback Denzel Burke said Mathews has impressed the Ohio State coaching staff and teammates with his development in his first collegiate season. Burke also said Mathews' standout play on Saturday could be a sign of what's to come for the Cincinnati native's career in Columbus.

"He does it in practice all the time, and there's going to be more for him to come," Burke said of Mathews' interception. "He's going to be a great cornerback here at Ohio State."

Hear this, Buckeye Nation: Ohio State's future is secure in the hands of Tate, Mathews and many more players. We will just have to wait and see where they take us.

 SONG OF THE DAY. "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" by Dropkick Murphys.

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