Skull Session: A Nice, Long Look In The Mirror

By Chase Brown on November 28, 2023 at 5:00 am
Ryan Day

Welcome to the Skull Session.

Today's article is about self-reflection.

We could all use some of that every once in a while.

Have a good Tuesday.

 RYAN DAY. After Ohio State suffered its third consecutive loss to Michigan, I have no problem with some in Buckeye Nation comparing Ryan Day to John Cooper – no problem at all. 

Still, it’s important to note that Day is not on the hot seat. With Gene Smith set to retire in June 2024, I’m sure the 18-year Ohio State athletic director has no plans to fire Day and leave the next hiring decision to his successor. And, after all, Day has a 56-7 record in five years. Those seven losses have all come to top-12 teams: Clemson (2019), Alabama (2020), Oregon and Michigan (2021), Michigan and Georgia (2022) and Michigan (2023).

The bottom line is, he’s a good coach.

But if Day wants to be remembered as a great coach at Ohio State – or, in other words, belong in the same conversation as Woody Hayes, Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer – he has to learn from the Buckeyes’ loss to the Wolverines. Plain and simple.

That can (and probably should) mean coaching changes on Ohio State’s staff. It can (and probably should) mean hitting the transfer portal hard.

But it also means a nice, long look in the mirror.

This weekend, Michigan is a 23-point favorite to beat Iowa in the Big Ten Championship Game. The Wolverines will cover that spread and then some. Jim Harbaugh and Co. will then make the College Football Playoff, where they will have an excellent chance to reach the CFP final and hoist their first national title trophy since 1997.

Had Ryan Day made some different decisions on Saturday, the Buckeyes would be in the same position: A 23-point favorite to beat Iowa in the Big Ten Championship Game and a lock to make the College Football Playoff, where they would have an excellent chance to reach the CFP final and hoist their first national title trophy since 2014.

Day’s choice to punt on 4th-and-1 from Ohio State’s 46-yard line is questionable.

Day’s choice to run 37 seconds off the clock before halftime and settle for a Jayden Fielding 52-yard field goal, which Fielding missed, is inexcusable.

On Ohio State’s previous offensive possession before Fielding’s missed kick, Emeka Egbuka reached the end zone via a 3-yard completion from Kyle McCord. On its ensuing defensive possession, Mike Hall Jr. and Jack Sawyer sacked J.J. McCarthy to force a Michigan punt – one that Tommy Doman downed at the Ohio State 2-yard line.

With 3:23 left on the clock, trailing 14-10 on the road in Ann Arbor, Day’s mission was for McCord and the offense to take care of the football and get to halftime down four. That mission should have changed when Marvin Harrison Jr. made a marvelous one-handed catch that put the Buckeyes in plus territory. Although Ohio State faced 4th-and-2 three plays later, Day should have been aggressive in that moment. You have to be aggressive in those moments.

I’ve reflected on those decisions for the past 48 hours. I still can’t make sense of them.

Did Day not trust McCord? Did Day not trust his offensive line?

If either answer is yes, that’s a major problem (*salutes*). 

Urban Meyer once said, “If you can’t get 1 yard, you don’t deserve to win.” If Ohio State couldn’t get 1 or 2 yards on those plays, then it didn’t deserve to beat Michigan, and it doesn't belong in the College Football Playoff. The issue is that we will never know if the Buckeyes would have converted. Day never offered them the chance.

All in all, Day is a good coach. But his decision-making in big games has cost Ohio State the past three seasons. He needs to look in the mirror. Perhaps after some self-reflection, he will emerge as great.

 JIM KNOWLES. Before The Game, Ohio State hadn’t allowed over 17 points to an opponent all season. Penn State had 12, Notre Dame had 14, Rutgers had 16 and Maryland had 17, while no other team scored more than 10.

That was great.

But when Ohio State counted on its defense the most, with the Buckeyes' season on the line in the second half against the Wolverines, Jim Knowles' unit couldn't deliver the stop the team needed.

After Ohio State forced Michigan's offense into consecutive three-and-outs in its first two possessions, the Wolverines went on to score on six of their final seven drives, excluding the end-of-game kneel down. Michigan went field goal, touchdown, field goal, field goal to close it out. Unfortunately, the Wolverines' second-half dominance has become a trend in the past three years of Ohio State-Michigan.

Since 2021, Michigan has punted once in the second half of The Game.


  • TD
  • TD
  • TD
  • TD
  • Victory Formation


  • TD
  • Punt
  • TD
  • Missed FG
  • TD
  • TD
  • Victory Formation


  • FG
  • TD
  • FG
  • FG
  • Victory Formation

Ohio State's defense has made clear improvements under Knowles in back-to-back seasons, but the outcome of The Game has remained the same.

That can't happen.

Coach Knowles, look in the mirror.

 KYLE MCCORD. Kyle McCord had some bad moments on Saturday. The interception on Ohio State's third possession was one of them. The interception on Ohio State's last possession was another. Still, I don't think his performance was terrible.

For McCord, The Game was a picture of the entire season for the third-year Buckeye out of Philadelphia. On some drives, he looked 10-feet tall and bulletproof. Other drives, not so much. Overall, McCord completed 18 of 30 passes for 217 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

While all of the criticism I've seen toward McCord isn't fair, it is fair that Ohio State fans are frustrated with the performance of the Buckeyes' first-year QB1. Those frustrations are certainly heightened due to the consistent success of his predecessors, Dwayne Haskins, Justin Fields and C.J. Stroud. The elevated efforts of other first-year starters, Carson Beck (Georgia) and Jalen Milroe (Alabama), don't help McCord's case, either.

His interceptions were mistakes an Ohio State quarterback making his 12th consecutive start (and 13th start overall) can’t make. The first turnover put the Buckeyes in a hole from which it never recovered. The second turnover, which was on both McCord and the offensive line for its breakdown in protection, ended the game.

McCord should improve before the end of December as he studies more film and receives more instruction from Corey Dennis and Ryan Day. The next month will also allow McCord to look in the mirror and reflect on where that improvement can occur the most.

Ohio State has set a high standard for quarterbacks in recent years. We didn’t see that from McCord in 2023. He has talent. But there's no question that he will need to take a step forward if the Buckeyes are to throw the Michigan-sized monkey off their back in Columbus next season. 

 THE BASKETBUCKS! Let's end this somber Skull Session on a positive note.

How 'bout them Basketbucks?

In the aftermath of Ohio State football's loss to Michigan, the Buckeyes' men's basketball team won the 2023 Emerald Coast Classic with a dominant 86-56 win over Santa Clara on Saturday. Ohio State's tournament championship also included victories over then-No. 17 Alabama in Niceville, Florida, and Western Michigan in Columbus.

With Ohio State football on the sidelines for the next month, get comfortable watching Chris Holtmann's squad in action. The Buckeyes have seven games before the calendar turns to 2024, including matchups with Central Michigan (Wednesday), Minnesota (Dec. 3), Miami (Dec. 6), Penn State (Dec. 9), UCLA (Dec. 16), New Orleans (Dec. 21) and WVU (Dec. 30).

Top tier team in the Big Ten?

I love the sound of that.

 SONG OF THE DAY. "Mirrors" - Justin Timberlake.

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