Welcome to the Skull Session.
Let's have a good Thursday, shall we?
OHIO STATE’S “MICHIGAN PROBLEM.” In an appearance on Barstool Sports’ “Pardon My Take,” Kirk Herbstreit broke down The Game between the Buckeyes and Wolverines. He also shared some ideas on where Ohio State moves forward after its third consecutive loss in the rivalry – and how Ryan Day can solve his “Michigan problem.”
"Two things that can be true here. Number one, me personally, I wouldn’t even consider even talking about firing Ryan Day. I wouldn’t. Number two, he definitely has a Michigan problem. Both of those things can be true. This game is cyclical. The pressure that the way teams get in the other team’s head. Ohio State lived in Michigan’s head for a number of years with (Jim) Tressel and Urban Meyer – and Jim Harbaugh, to his credit, they were ready to fire him, but now he’s completely turned it around.
"If I were Ryan Day... I’ve always felt that when Ohio State is tougher, the recruiting that they have done from the end of the Urban Meyer era to now, they recruit nationally. They go to Florida. They go to Georgia. They go to North Carolina. They go to Texas. They go to California. If you look at the Ohio State roster, there are not a ton of Ohio guys. (If I were Ryan Day, I would look) at that aspect of the roster and find more Ohio guys that qualified to be on the Ohio State roster to make them appreciate what The Game really means. You can put slogans up. You can do a fourth-quarter drill (and call it) 'The Michigan Drill.' You can have a clock in the Woody Hayes facility. But the reality is, when we watch The Game, it feels like the Michigan team plays as a group where they play like with a chip on their shoulder. They’re mad at the world. They play with something to prove. And in the last three years that has been more than what Ohio State has brought to the table in that game."
"Ohio State has great players and they have a great culture. But when it comes to that game, it’s become a psychological aspect of the game. I still think Michigan has a bunch of guys that are great players but maybe not quite as recruited at the level of Ohio State. And they got a chip on their shoulder to prove that they are collectively better than the Marvin Harrison Jr.’s and the Emeka Egbuka’s and all the great individual superstars that Ohio State has. They have a chip on their shoulder to show Ohio State, we have a better culture, we’re better than you and right now that united front is more powerful than what Ohio State has."
Herbie is spot on here.
While Ohio State needs to recruit the best talent in America to compete with the Alabamas and Georgias of the world, it also needs to focus on the recruits in their own backyard (i.e., the recruits who understand what The Game means and should have a hatred for the maize and blue and all the Wolverines stand for).
In the Wolverines' postgame press conference on Saturday, Michigan safety Rod Moore, a former standout at Northmont in Clayton, Ohio, said it “was a dream come true” to seal his team's win over Ohio State with an interception of Kyle McCord, especially since the Buckeyes didn't offer him a scholarship out of high school.
"Being a 3-peat and being from Ohio, it feels great. Especially them guys not recruiting me when I was coming out of high school... get the get back on them feels so good."@UMichFootball's Rod Moore talks about what this win means after his game-sealing interception pic.twitter.com/BEoQkRhQox— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) November 25, 2023
In the next few classes, Day and his staff need to locate the Rod Moores of Ohio – the players who understand The Game and what it means to represent the Buckeyes in a death match with the Wolverines.
To its credit, Ohio State has landed Aaron Scott from Springfield, Garrett Stover from Sunbury, Bryce West, Damarion Witten, Devontae and Deontae Armstrong from Cleveland and Sam Williams-Dixon from Pickerington in the class of 2024 and some more Ohio players in future classes, but there can (and probably should) be more.
Hopefully, we can see that be a difference-maker as Ohio State looks to break free of its “Michigan problem” in the coming seasons.
THE EYES, CHICO. THEY NEVER LIE. An average of more than 19 million people – 19.065 million people, to be exact – watched the 119th edition of The Game on Saturday. According to Fox Sports PR, the battle between the Buckeyes and Wolverines peaked at 22.9 million viewers as Ohio State and Michigan traded punches in the final frame.
Saturday's Ohio State-Michigan matchup scored 19,065,000 viewers on FOX— FOX Sports PR (@FOXSportsPR) November 29, 2023
Most-watched regular season college football game on any network since 2011
Most-watched regular season college football game in FOX Sports history
Peaked at 22,900,000 viewers on FOX pic.twitter.com/e5yQKmHhCZ
As Dan Hope wrote on Wednesday, Ohio State-Michigan attracted an audience that almost doubled the viewership of the second-most-watched regular-season contest in 2023, Oregon-Colorado, which had 10.03 million viewers on Sept. 23.
The Game was also the most-watched regular-season college football game since 2011 when LSU-Alabama attracted an audience of 20 million, and it was the second-most watched Ohio State-Michigan matchup all-time behind the 2006 “Game of the Century,” which had over 21 million viewers.
To add more, the over 19 million viewers for Ohio State-Michigan surpassed the audience of these monumental events in 2023:
- NCAA Tournament championship (UConn-San Diego State): 14.7 million
- Kentucky Derby (Horses): 14.4 million
- NBA Finals Game 5 (Heat-Nuggets): 13.1 million
- Sunday at The Masters (Golfers): 12.1 million
- World Series Game 5 (Diamondbacks-Rangers): 11.5 million
- Stanley Cup Game 5 (Golden Knights-Panthers): 2.7 million
Now, in all of the numbers talk, does it stink that Ohio State lost to Michigan? Of course.
Still, we can appreciate that the Buckeyes compete with the Wolverines in the greatest rivalry in college football. The hatred that surrounds The Game, the performance in The Game and the television numbers for The Game prove as much.
The viewership for Alabama-Auburn in the Iron Bowl? 9.09 million. Washington State-Washington in the Apple Cup? 5.85 million. Georgia-Georgia Tech in Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate? 5.33 million. Florida-Florida State in –
I could go on.
The Game stands alone at the top of the mountain.
It always has. It always will.
MOCK DRAFT SZN. The term “Mock Draft SZN” is a misnomer. There is no real Mock Draft SZN. Instead, mock drafts are everything, everywhere, all at once. However, if there were a time when the mock drafts start to pour in – the semi-accurate ones, that is – it would be now: The end of the 2023 regular season in college football.
On Wednesday, The Athletic’s Dane Brugler broke the mock draft ice.
“The college football regular season is complete, and the draft order is starting to take shape, making it a perfect time to unveil my first mock draft of the 2024 NFL Draft process,” Brugler explained. “Plenty will change between now and April, but this is still an interesting exercise at this point in the draft calendar. The picks don’t reflect my personal rankings or what I would do, but rather, this projection strictly goes by what I think teams would do if the draft were tomorrow.”
With those caveats addressed, Brugler had four Buckeyes come off the board in his article. Here are their destinations and a quick breakdown from Brugler:
No. 2 - Marvin Harrison Jr., Arizona Cardinals
Another embattled quarterback under an organizational microscope: Kyler Murray, as he returns from last season’s injury. Neither Arizona general manager Monti Ossenfort nor head coach Jonathan Gannon drafted Murray or signed him to his lucrative extension, which creates plenty of unknowns for this franchise. But we do know that a trade of Murray is unlikely — who’d trade for that contract? — and cutting him would be easier to stomach a year from now.
In this scenario, I have them keeping Murray (and his hefty contract) for at least one more season.
Last year, the Cardinals drafted an Ohio State offensive tackle in the top 10, and they go back to Columbus for one of the best wide receiver prospects of the last few decades. This pick would come on the 20-year anniversary of Arizona selecting Larry Fitzgerald at No. 3 in 2004, which is interesting because Harrison reminds me of a leaner version of Fitzgerald
No. 27 - JT Tuimoloau, Detroit Lions
The Lions rank near the bottom of the NFL in pressure rate and sacks, and they must continue to build on the defensive line. Tuimoloau isn’t going to win the corner with pure speed, but he has heavy hands and diversifies his attack with leverage and timing to affect the backfield.
No. 28 - Emeka Egbuka, Jacksonville Jaguars
Similar in ways to his former Ohio State teammate Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Egbuka is quarterback-friendly with his ability to find space in coverage. Dropping him into the mix as a “Z” receiver alongside Calvin Ridley and Christian Kirk would provide a boost to Trevor Lawrence and create problems for defenses.
Second Round - Tyleik Williams, Cleveland Browns
With Shelby Harris, Maurice Hurst and Jordan Elliott set to be free agents this offseason, the Browns might be looking at defensive tackle with their first pick in April. Williams has been a disruptive force for the Buckeyes in 2023 — equally effective stuffing the run and putting pressure on the pocket.
I have a couple of notes.
First, Marvin Harrison Jr. becoming a Cardinal reminded me of the last time Arizona used a top-three draft pick on a wide receiver. His name was Larry Fitzgerald. He was pretty good!
Second, JT Tuimoloau heading to Detroit, where he would line up at defensive end opposite former Michigan defensive end Aiden Hutchinson – that would be something.
Third, and probably the most important of the notes, Emeka Egbuka becoming a Jaguar and catching passes from Trevor Lawrence would be fun. However, I have to wonder: if Egbuka were expected to be the No. 28 pick, would he consider a return to Columbus for a senior season at Ohio State to improve his draft stock? Disclaimer: That is speculation and not a report based on some insider info. That is the rambling of a smooth-brained individual (me).
Fourth, Tyleik Williams on the Cleveland Browns. Yes, please.
STROUD “PLAYING LIGHTS OUT.” I referenced Trevor Lawrence in the previous section. With how much Ohio State fans loveeeee Clemson, I’m sure to read that name in was a thrill. Well, let me add another thrill to the Skull Session and reference the former Tigers quarterback a second time. The reason? Lawrence has lots of respect for former Ohio State signal-caller C.J. Stroud.
While much was made of a potential long-term rivalry between Lawrence and Texans rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud, Lawrence admitted after Sunday's game the idea doesn't excite him as much as it perhaps does some observers.
"I want the teams in our division to be as bad as possible, so that's how I see it," Lawrence said with a laugh. "The way they [the Texans] are playing, it's exciting. There are going to be some, I'm sure, great matchups down the road, and C.J. is playing lights out. He's doing a great job. To be a rookie and to play how he is, I've got a lot of respect for him. I know how hard it is. I've been in that position. He's doing a great job, and it's going to be fun for years to come. But no, I wouldn't prefer that. I'd prefer if the guys in our division didn't have good quarterbacks. It would be better for us."
After 11 games as the Texans’ starter, in which Houston has a 6-5 record, Stroud has completed 249 of 391 passes (63.7%) for 3,266 yards, 19 touchdowns and four interceptions. As of Wednesday, Stroud’s odds to win the 2023 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year are -9000, according to consensus lines for Vegas Insider. His odds to win MVP are the seventh-best in the NFL at +1800 behind the likes of Jalen Hurts, Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Tua Tagovailoa, Dak Prescott and Brock Purdy.
Again, the premise that Stroud would be a “bust” because he didn’t do well on an S2 Cognition test belongs in the Hall of Fame Bad Takes.
Stroud is a gamer. He’s a baller. He’s a playmaker. He’s a shot-caller.
I look forward to seeing what he does the rest of the season (and beyond).
SONG OF THE DAY. “All Your’n” - Tyler Childers.
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