Skull Session: Bruce Feldman Ranks Ohio State No. 1 in 12-Team CFP Prediction, and Dan Wetzel Says Urban Meyer Gave Ryan Day “A Big Helping of Rat Poison”

By Chase Brown on June 21, 2024 at 5:00 am
Ryan Day

Welcome to the Skull Session.

Ryan Day and Jim Tressel, together again.

Have a good Friday.


 SMITTY WERBENJAGERMANJENSEN. On Thursday, Bruce Feldman of The Athletic became – to my knowledge – the first national college football writer to predict the 12-team College Football Playoff field in 2024. His prediction included Ohio State as the No. 1 overall seed. The Buckeyes ranked ahead of Georgia, Florida State, Utah, Texas, Oregon, Ole Miss, Notre Dame, Alabama, Penn State, Miami and Memphis.

Remember: In the expanded CFP formula, the five highest-ranked conference champions receive automatic bids and seven at-large spots are given to the next highest-ranked teams. The four highest-ranked conference champions will be seeded 1-4 in the expanded playoff. Those teams have a first-round bye. Seeds 5-8 will host a first-round game, while quarterfinals and semifinals will be played at bowl sites.


Here are the reasons Feldman picked Ohio State as his No. 1 team:

I love what the Buckeyes have done this offseason. Many stud players return, most notably JT Tuimoloau, Jack Sawyer, TreVeyon Henderson and Emeka Egbuka. Ryan Day struck gold in the portal with Alabama safety Caleb Downs and Ole Miss RB Quinshon Judkins. He also has the nation’s best recruit, WR Jeremiah Smith, a 6-foot-3, 220-pounder who has folks inside the program thinking he’s the most gifted wideout the Buckeyes have ever had. Obviously a huge statement given the NFL talent they’ve developed in the past decade.

The QB spot is a concern. The hunch here is that ex-Kansas State QB Will Howard, a smart, experienced leader, will be the starter. This team is so talented; the Buckeyes don’t need Howard to be CJ Stroud, but he’s a good enough running threat to keep defenses honest and he should be able to exploit the talent around him. Expect a more physical Buckeyes attack in 2024 as OSU reclaims the top spot in the Big Ten. The schedule is challenging, especially with a trip to Oregon right after hosting a physical Iowa team and a trip to Penn State shortly thereafter. Ohio State hosts Michigan this year. I’ll be surprised if the Buckeyes don’t end the streak this year. (Then again, I did think they’d beat Michigan the last time the Wolverines came to Columbus.)

Many will contend that Georgia, a team whose seven Phil Steele preseason All-Americans tied Ohio State for the most in college football, should be the top seed – or, I guess, will be the top seed when the regular season ends. However, Feldman sees the Bulldogs’ “murderous schedule” as cause for concern, albeit a small concern:

The Bulldogs missed the CFP last year and took it out on a depleted FSU team in the Orange Bowl. Their schedule is one of the hardest in the country: road trips to Alabama, Texas, Ole Miss and Kentucky, which has beaten four Top-25 teams at home in the past three years. They host a good Tennessee team and open the season with a neutral-site matchup against Clemson. But the Bulldogs return 16 starters, including Mykel Williams and Malaki Starks, plus potential top-10 pick at QB in Carson Beck. Georgia added a big playmaking WR from Miami in Colbie Young. Georgia is too deep and too talented not to make it deep into the postseason.

Ohio State being No. 1 indicates Feldman’s belief that the Buckeyes will win their midseason showdown with Oregon at Autzen Stadium. Still, Feldman has the Ducks as the second-best at-large team behind Texas, coming in at No. 6. The Big Ten will also have a third representative in Penn State, not Michigan. The Nittany Lions host Ohio State and have road tests at USC and Wisconsin this season; meanwhile, the Wolverines…

I see them in the 8-4/9-3 range, but I think they lost too many vital leaders from the national title team — not just Jim Harbaugh, but J.J. McCarthy, Blake Corum, the entire O-line, Mike Sainristil, Michael Barrett and Kris Jenkins. If Michigan beats Texas when the Longhorns come to Ann Arbor, I’ll probably regret this pick. But until that happens, I feel this team is in for more of a rebuild.

A 9-3 or 8-4 Michigan team would be glorious — so long as one of those three or four losses comes to The Men in the Scarlet and Gray, of course.

 NOT QUITE SMITTY WERBENJAGERMANJENSEN. If Bruce Feldman’s prediction is correct, Ohio State will have been the best team in college football in 2024 – in the regular season, at least. However, when looking ahead to future seasons, Ohio State is still a hair behind Georgia, Adam Rittenberg of ESPN stated Thursday.

In an article compiling his Future Power Rankings (FPR) for college football quarterback rooms, offenses, defenses and teams, Rittenberg ranked the Buckeyes behind the Bulldogs. Why? Because of one word: stability.

Georgia retained the top spot in the team rankings and the choice wasn't very difficult. If the Bulldogs had stayed healthier down the stretch last season, they might have claimed a third consecutive national title after being ranked No. 1 for most of the fall. They will enter 2024 as one of the frontrunners for a championship, led by Heisman Trophy contender Carson Beck at quarterback and a deep and talented defense. Georgia also has more stability than many perennial top-five teams, as coach Kirby Smart is signed through 2033 and the team is still viewed as the one to beat in the SEC. The team signed ESPN's top-rated 2024 recruiting class, headlined by cornerback Ellis Robinson IV, inside linebacker Justin Williams and three other defenders ranked in the top 26 nationally.

Georgia's defensive setup is unmatched, as a front seven loaded with depth and emerging star power, including linebackers Jalon Walker and Mykel Williams, will lead the 2024 team. Notable senior returnees include linebackers Smael Mondon Jr. and Chaz Chambliss, and interior linemen Nazir Stackhouse and Warren Brinson. All-America safety Malaki Starks is back, and if Georgia can fortify the cornerback spot in the short term, the unit seemingly has no weaknesses. The Bulldogs also recently added a commitment from outside linebacker Zayden Walker, ESPN's No. 15 recruit in the 2025 class.

The quarterback rankings were compiled before Jaden Rashada, an ESPN top-35 recruit in 2023, transferred from Arizona State to provide another capable option following Beck's exit next season. Rashada will compete with Gunner Stockton and Ryan Puglisi and should keep the offense on a strong trajectory. Despite losing Brock Browers, Georgia has the nation's best tight end setup with junior Oscar Delp, Stanford transfer Benjamin Yurosek, incoming freshman Jaden Reddell (ESPN 300 No. 51) and the nation's top two 2025 tight end recruits in Elyiss Williams and Ethan Barbour. Running back depth also jumps out with Florida transfer Trevor Etienne, Roderick Robinson II, Branson Robinson and others, including freshman Nathaniel Frazier, ESPN's No. 3 running back and No. 62 overall recruit. Senior guard Tate Ratledge, a second-team All-America selection in 2023, is back to lead an offensive line that should remain a team strength, as tackle Earnest Greene III and others will play through 2025. Wide receiver is the one iffy spot. Although Dominic Lovett provides short-term leadership, Rara Thomas and Miami transfer Colbie Young should help.

According to Rittenberg, Ohio State’s talent can go toe-to-toe with Georgia. But a question looms over the Buckeyes: How stable is the program? If Ohio State loses to Michigan in 2024, there seems to be no scenario in which Ryan Day continues as the program’s head coach, save for winning a national title. If Day cannot lead the Buckeyes to the promised land, and new athletic director Ross Bjork chooses to fire him, the same can of worms that opened for Alabama, Washington, Arizona and several other schools who hired new head coaches this offseason would open for Ohio State. That factor alone creates enough pause for Rittenberg to rank the Buckeyes – whose composite FPR score actually ranked higher than Georgia’s – as the second-best team behind the Bulldogs.

A team with no league titles since 2020 and just one CFP win since 2014 typically wouldn't occupy the No. 2 spot in FPR. But questions around other contenders, plus the Buckeyes' pedal-down personnel approach this offseason, has them poised to end their national title drought soon. Coach Ryan Day must deliver notable results this season, as Ohio State retained several NFL draft hopefuls on defense and made its strongest portal push yet, adding Ole Miss running back Quinshon Judkins, Alabama safety Caleb Downs, Kansas State quarterback Will Howard and others.

Day has brought historically strong quarterback play to Columbus, which must continue this fall with Howard or another candidate from a loaded room. The Buckeyes have options with Devin Brown, Alabama transfer Julian Sayin and others to carry them through 2026. Emeka Egbuka leads a wide receiving corps that should remain among the nation's best, especially with non-seniors such as Carnell Tate and incoming freshman Jeremiah Smith, as well as 2025 commits such as Quincy Porter. The short-term running back outlook is excellent with Judkins and TreVeyon Henderson. Ohio State needs more from its offensive line, both in recruiting and development, although senior Donovan Jackson is a cornerstone piece. The Buckeyes added Alabama center Seth McLaughlin and bring back veterans such as tackles Josh Simmons and Josh Fryar.

Despite falling short of the CFP in 2023, Ohio State's defense continues on a promising path under coordinator Jim Knowles. Few pegged ends JT Tuimoloau and Jack Sawyer -- both former top-five national recruits are back alongside tackles Tyleik Williams and Ty Hamilton -- forming a line with massive expectations. The secondary also projects very well, both in 2024 and beyond, as Downs will play at least two more seasons. The back end features experience and talent with Denzel Burke, Jordan Hancock, Lathan Ransom and Davison Igbinosun. Linebacker depth is a mini concern, although moving junior safety Sonny Styles to the group should help. Veteran Cody Simon is back alongside junior C.J. Hicks. The Buckeyes have ESPN's top-rated 2025 recruiting class, which includes decorated defensive back prospects Na'eem Offord and Devin Sanchez, both top-12 prospects, safety Faheem Delane, ESPN's No. 52 overall recruit, and defensive end recruits London Merritt (No. 36) and Zahir Mathis (No. 51). Ohio State has commitments from five defenders ranked among ESPN's top-60 recruits, and quarterback Tavien St. Clair (No. 48).

Just beat Michigan.

 A BIG HEAP OF IT. If you read the first two sections and said, “Rat poison! Rat poison! Rat poison!” then you’ll like what Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports wrote on Thursday. 

After hearing former Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer claim the Buckeyes’ 2024 roster “is one of the most talented rosters in the last decade, maybe ever,” Wetzel called Meyer’s comments “a big helping of rat poison.” 

Wait … ever?

It is uncertain if Meyer meant the most talented Ohio State roster “in the last decade, maybe ever” or most talented roster anywhere at any school. Either one would be a massive statement. The latter, though, would be hyperbolic … perhaps. Nebraska in 1995? Miami in 2001? USC in 2004? Alabama in 2020?

Give Meyer this much: He’s paid by Fox Sports to offer big opinions and that’s a big one. He certainly isn’t shying away from what he thinks in an effort to lower expectations and egos to help Day, his former assistant.Rat poison is what Nick Saban used to call this. A big heaping serving that does nothing but increase expectations on Day and the Buckeyes to win the national championship or explain what the heck happened.

And when it comes to former national champion Ohio State coaches — it isn’t just Meyer.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that many great players in that building all at once — every position, every place you turn,” Jim Tressel said. “So Ryan’s done a great job. Ohio State has done a great job.”

As Wetzel continued, he explained that Day has done a great job as Ohio State’s head coach. Yet, he hasn’t been great enough to beat Michigan, win a Big Ten title and win a national championship in recent seasons. Those outcomes have created enough pressure for Day, Wetzel wrote, and Meyer’s comments add even more.

The problem with "the most talented ever" talk is it immediately invites comparisons to championship teams of the past — such as the aforementioned. Winning it all though requires more than good players. There’s health, luck, chemistry and more. Meyer won a national title at Ohio State with his 2014 team, but the roster a season later was probably more “talented.” It just happened to stumble against Michigan State.

And then, perhaps most notably, there is the competition. Yes, Ohio State has a loaded roster. So does Georgia, though. So does Texas. So does Oregon and so on.

And this is a new era of college football. The Big Ten is 18 teams strong now — meaning games at Oregon, at Penn State and the finale with the Wolverines. The league no longer has divisions, so any Big Ten championship game matchup will likely feature a rematch with one of those three, not a speed bump from the old Big Ten West. Then comes a national playoff requiring three or four victories in a field that will likely feature four SEC teams.

No offense to Meyer and Tressel, but this isn’t how it used to work. Winning it all in 2024 isn’t just about having great players and great coaching; it’s surviving a gauntlet of competition in a marathon of a season that doesn’t end until Jan. 20. Maybe this is the most talented Ohio State team anyone has ever seen. Or even the most talented team anywhere that Meyer has ever seen — including his old Florida Gator squads or the Alabama teams that sometimes defeated them. 

That alone won’t be enough, however.

Good on the old Buckeye coaches for offering their opinion, but for Ryan Day staring at a career-defining season, this probably isn’t helping.

I get where Wetzel’s coming from, but as I’ve referenced or written this week several times, pressure is a privilege. No matter how much pressure lies on Day, his staff or his players’ shoulders, Ohio State knows what it needs to accomplish this season.

"I said at my (introductory) news conference, you have to beat the ‘Team Up North’ and win every game after that," Day said on Tuesday. "The pressure is the same every year. I just like the pressure when you have a pretty good team behind you."

 THIS AND THAT. Another Skull Session, another This and That™.

You know the drill.

The trailer for EA Sports Madden NFL 25 came out on Thursday. The opening sequence shows former Ohio State and Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields returning a kickoff for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Two things are unrealistic in that sequence. First and foremost, Cleveland Browns kicker Dustin Hopkins has never sent a kickoff that short. Then, of course, Fields will not return kicks for the Steelers — no, I do not believe it.

From a young age, former Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud wanted to become one of the best football players in the world. His mother, Kimberly, always encouraged him to chase after it, never allowing her ambitions for C.J. to trump the ones he had for himself. Have a listen:

Gene Smith, Greg Oden, Braxton Miller and Kyle Snyder are among 14 Buckeyes who will be inducted into the Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame in 2024. That’s a star-studded bunch if you ask me.

That’s all, folks!

 SONG OF THE DAY. “Pressure” - Billy Joel.

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