Skull Session: Humiliation is a Great Motivator, Ohio State’s Stars Need to Shine in the CFP and the Buckeyes Haven’t Been Underdogs For Two Years

Welcome to the Skull Session. The Peach Bowl is two days away.

It’s almost gameday.

Let’s have a good Thursday, shall we?

WHY OHIO STATE IS DANGEROUS. Since the final CFP rankings were released on Dec. 4, most sportsbooks have maintained that Georgia will be a 6.5-point favorite over Ohio State in the Peach Bowl. The Bulldogs are also the favorite to win the national championship, according to several oddsmakers.

betJACK Odds: Peach Bowl

TEAM

SPREAD

TOTAL

MONEYLINE

OHIO STATE +7 (-114) O 62.0 (-112) +210

GEORGIA

-7 (-107)

U 62.0 (-109)

-264

But, as has been said many times by many people in many different ways, the Buckeyes were arguably the worst matchup Georgia could have received out of a trio of Ohio State, Michigan and TCU, given they were ranked second for most of the CFP rankings. that were released, possesses a Heisman finalist in CJ Stroud, a Biletnikoff finalist in Marvin Harrison Jr. and one of the best offenses in the nation that pairs with a top-15 defense nationally.

However, the most important reason may not include the talent Ohio State displays on the field but rather the motivation it will carry into the matchup coming off a humiliating home loss to Michigan to end the regular season. Humiliation can be a tremendous motivatoras the Bulldogs know from experience, which makes the Buckeyes dangerous.

Just last year, Georgia’s final game before the CFP was a loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship. Kirby Smart said earlier this week that the defeat left scars but also “re-centered things” in his program.

“You recalibrate, and you look back, and sometimes the reality of your weaknesses pop up a lot more in a loss,” Smart said. “We like to say, ‘Why you gotta lose to learn?’ You shouldn’t have to do that. But it certainly is a wake-up call on teams I’ve been with. It re-centered everybody and refocused everybody. But obviously, we’ve tried to do that without (losing this year).”

Georgia went on to curb-stomp Michigan and then avenged its loss to Alabama en route to winning a national championship, the program’s first since 1980. Perhaps the Buckeyes will accomplish a similar feat by using the humiliation from their loss to the Wolverines as motivation to defeat the Bulldogs and the winner of the Michigan vs. TCU matchup.

Personally, I’d be a fan of that outcome. What do you say?

STARS WHO NEED TO SHINE. I’ve written at length about how all eyes will be on CJ Stroud, Paris Johnson Jr. and Marvin Harrison Jr. in the Peach Bowl, so I will not bore you with more information regarding their importance in the matchup with the Bulldogs.

However, I would love to talk about other Buckeyes that will need to shine for Ohio State to come out with a victory in Atlanta this weekend. NFL draft analyst Matt Miller of ESPN supplied me with some ammunition to do that, as he ranked the 25 most important players in the CFP this week.

According to Miller, Harrison, Stroud and Johnson are the third, sixth and eighth most crucial players who will play in the four-team tournament. Beyond the Three Amigos, he placed a few more Buckeyes, including Tommy Eichenberg (12th), Luke Wypler (17th), Zach Harrison (20th) and Cade Stover (22nd).

Here is what Miller said about them in his article:

Tommy Eichenberg

The heart and soul of the Ohio State defense is right in the middle at linebacker. Eichenberg is a heat-seeking missile from his spot at mike linebacker. He tallied 72 solo tackles this year — tied for third-best in the nation — while adding 2.5 sacks and an interception. Stopping the Georgia run game will fall largely on No. 35 in the middle of the defense.

Projected 2023 draft stock: Rounds 4-5

Luke Wypler

A second-year starter in 2022, Wypler emerged as one of the top centers in the nation by allowing no sacks and building a reputation as an elite run-blocker. The 6-3, 300-pound Wypler will face off against the nation’s best defensive tackle – Georgia’s (Jalen) Carter – in a matchup that will dictate the outcome of the game. Protecting Stroud from internal pressure is key given his lack of mobility. Wypler will be under the spotlight.

Projected 2023 draft stock: Round 2

Zach Harrison

A former five-star recruit, Harrison has blossomed into a special pass-rusher for the Ohio State defense. The 6-6, 272-pound senior has three sacks, 11 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles on the year. He has been integral to the Buckeyes’ scheme and is one of the best tackling edge defenders in the nation. Against Georgia, he’ll need to bring his A-game to slow down a tough running game.

Projected 2023 draft stock: Rounds 1-2

Cade Stover

One of the most underrated players in the vast Ohio State passing game, Stover contributes not only as a receiver but also as a key blocker down the field in the short-yardage passing game and when running backs break free. Stover has 35 catches and five touchdowns this season, but watch him work as a blocker to see his real value to the offense.

Projected 2023 draft stock: Rounds 2-3

Eichenberg has been phenomenal all season, so expect him to be phenomenal on Saturday. I would say the same about Wypler.

As for Harrison, I want to see his best performance as a Buckeye on Saturday. More than any player on Miller’s list – yes, even more than Harrison and Stroud – I believe Harrison has the chance to make the biggest impact on the outcome of the Peach Bowl. It could even come on one play. A sack that forces a punt instead of a field goal, a pass deflection that leads to an interception, a strip-sack that leads to an Ohio State fumble recovery and so much more. I need to see Harrison unleashed.

And, finally, for Stover, it’s no secret that the Michigan game was not his best performance as a tight end for Ohio State. However, he seems well-equipped to bounce back from that outing and put together a solid effort against Georgia. I hope he delivers. The Buckeyes will need him.

SELDOM AN UNDERDOG. There’s been a lot of talk about Ohio State embracing the underdog role for their matchup with Georgia. To be clear, I think that’s a good thing because it gives the team an edge. But I do have doubts that the Buckeyes know how to act when labeled underdogs, only because they haven’t been underdogs much for the past two years.

According to Covers, the 2020 national championship between Ohio State and Alabama serves as the last time the Buckeyes have been an underdog heading into a matchup, as the Tide were 9.5-point favorites in the CFP final and won 52-24. Since then, though, Ryan Day’s teams have been favored in every game they’ve played.

Ohio State’s Point Spreads in 2021 and 2022 (Covers)

GAME

POINT SPREAD

RESULT

GAME

POINT SPREAD

RESULT

@ MINNESOTA

-13.5

OSU 45-31

NOTRE DAME

-17

OSU 21-10

OREGON

-14.5

ORE 35-28

ARKANSAS STATE

-44.5

OSU 45-12

TULSA

-24.5

OSU 41-20

TOLEDO

-31

OSU 77-21

AKRON

-48.5

OSU 59-7

WISCONSIN

-19

OSU 52-21

@RUTGERS

-15

OSU 52-13

RUTGERS

-39

OSU 49-10

MARYLAND

-22

OSU 66-17

@ MICHIGAN STATE

-27.5

OSU 49-20

@ INDIANA

-21

OSU 54-7

IOWA

-29.5

OSU 54-10

PENN STATE

-18.5

OSU 33-24

@ PENN STATE

-15.5

OSU 44-31

@ NEBRASKA

-14

OSU 26-17

@ NORTHWESTERN

-37.5

OSU 21-7

PURDUE

-19

OSU 59-31

INDIANA

-29

OSU 56-14

MICHIGAN STATE

-20

OSU 56-7

@ MARYLAND

-25

OSU 43-30

@ MICHIGAN

-6.5

UM 42-27

MICHIGAN

-9

UM 45-23

UTAH (ROSE BOWL)

-4

OSU 48-45

GEORGIA (CFP) +6.5 TBD

While there isn’t any track record of how the iteration of Ohio State will perform as underdogs, the Buckeyes of past years almost always performed well with their backs against the wall. Hopefully, this year’s team can capture that same energy on Saturday against the Bulldogs.

A LEARNING EXPERIENCE. I wrote in a Skull Session at some point – I can’t find it anywhere, so maybe I didn’t – about how the Peach Bowl has become one of my favorite bowl games because of the events surrounding the football game that are special for the coaches and players.

On Tuesday, Ohio State and Georgia visited Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Dr. Martin Luther King attended and preached throughout his life, to learn about MLK and his civil rights work in Atlanta and the South. The Buckeyes’ social media team documented the experience and posted some clips on Wednesday:

While playing Family Feud and basketball and racing go-karts is fun, this experience for Ohio State and Georgia’s coaches and players will have a lasting impact, which is something to appreciate.

Cheers to the Peach Bowl organizers for making something like this happen. It’s pretty neat.

SONG OF THE DAY. “Georgia On My Mind” by Allen Stone.

CUT TO THE CHASE. Server at Wisconsin diner receives $1,000 Christmas tip… Bismarck man accused of raising hatchet at store clerk… Bats plunge to ground in cold; saved by incubators, fluids… Meet the 73-Year-Old Retired Engineer who lives in a Boeing 727… Lost dog rescued from above waterfall on Utah mountain.

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