Skull Session: The Peach Bowl Averaged 22.1 Million Viewers, Ohio State’s Run at QB Has Been Insane and the Buckeyes Have Played in Great Bowl Games

Welcome to the Skull Session.

There’s lots of football and a little bit of basketball in this Skully. Have fun reading about them.

Let’s have a good Thursday, shall we?

CFP DRAWS EYEBALLS. Whether it’s scheduled to face Georgia or Delta State University – I did not make this school up; their nickname is the Fighting Okras (yes, like the vegetable) – Ohio State will always draw a massive viewership for its games.

Of course, opponents like the Bulldogs, especially when ranked No. 1 in the nation and playing a home game against the Buckeyes in a College Football Playoff semifinal, are sure to attract more eyeballs. That lesson was learned again this week when ESPN released viewership numbers from the Peach Bowl. As expected, a lot of people watched.

The 22.1 million viewers were the most for a primetime CFP matchup since 2014, when Ohio State knocked off top-ranked Alabama, 42-35, in the Sugar Bowl. The ratings peaked at 23.9 million viewers between 9:45-10 pm, approximately when CJ Stroud threw a 37-yard touchdown to Xavier Johnson to put the Buckeyes up 28-24 heading into halftime.

What makes those numbers even more impressive is that the game started at 8:20 pm on New Year’s Eve and lasted until 2022 turned into 2023, with the timing of Noah Ruggles’ game-winning FG attempt occurring almost simultaneously with the ball drop in New York City’s Times Square.

According to Sports Media Watch (SMW), the Peach Bowl’s viewership took quite a hit towards midnight as those without vested interest turned their televisions to channels broadcasting the ball drop and celebrating the New Year in the Eastern time zone. Still, there were enough viewers to make the battle between the Buckeyes and Bulldogs the fourth-most watched playoff semifinal in the past nine years and place it among the top 20 cable telecasts of all time.

Is that good?

AN UNPRECEDENTED RUN. I apologize for using the word “unprecedented” in the title of this section, as I feel the word has exhausted its usage limit for the rest of the time after it was thrown around almost every day in 2020.

However, it’s also the word that best describes Ohio State’s current run of quarterback play over the last five years, as the Buckeyes have had some legit dudes at the position since Urban Meyer’s final season through Ryan Day’s first four.

Dwayne Haskins. Justin Fields. CJ Stroud.

Who else in the country has had a stretch of back-to-back-to-back quarterbacks as good as those three players recently, or perhaps even ever?

Ohio State Quarterback Statistics (2018-22)

PLAYER, YEAR

GAMES

CMP

ATT

PCT

YARDS

TD

INT

RATE

DWAYNE HASKINS, 2018

14

373

533

70.0

4,831

50

8

174.1

JUSTIN FIELDS, 2019

14

238

354

67.2

3,237

41

3

181.4

JUSTIN FIELDS, 2020

8

158

225

70.2

2,100

22

6

175.6

CJ STROUD, 2021

12

317

441

71.9

4,435

44

6

186.6

CJ STROUD, 2022

13

258

389

66.3

3,688

41

6

177.7

TOTAL (2018-22) 61 1,344 1,942 69.2 18,291 198 29 179.1

Haskins, Fields and Stroud combined for all five of the Big Ten’s Offensive Player of the Year and Quarterback of the Year awards during that span. All three were Heisman finalists at least once with Stroud making consecutive appearances at the ceremony in 2021 and 2022.

All that is to say there has been no better time to watch a quarterback play at Ohio State or across the FBS than in the last five seasons, which don’t even include JT Barrett’s four-year stretch as the team’s starter from 2014-17 . He was pretty darn good, too, and won several awards while breaking a multitude of program and Big Ten records.

With Stroud expected to leave for the NFL after this season, either Kyle McCord, Devin Brown – or in an extreme dark horse scenario, Lincoln Kienholz – will have enormous shoes to fill by following Stroud coupled with the burden of carrying on a legacy of fantastic quarterback played at the university for the last half-decade.

I don’t know who it will be, but they have quite a task ahead. For the sake of Buckeye Nation, let’s hope they succeed.

GONE BOWLING. With bowl season over save for the national championship game on Monday, The Athletic’s Matt Brown released an updated list of the top 50 bowl games in college football history.

To no surprise, Ohio State, which is one of the sport’s most consistent winners, was featured on the list many times, as they frequently qualified and played in meaningful bowl games for several decades. Here are some of the Buckeyes’ bowl victories Brown found to be among the best college football has ever seen:

No. 33 – Sugar Bowl (Jan. 1, 2015): Ohio State 42, Alabama 35

After Oregon dominated Florida State in the first Playoff game, Ohio State stunned Alabama behind the arm of third-string quarterback Cardale Jones and Ezekiel Elliott’s 230 rushing yards. In the game Alabama led by as many as 15, Elliott ran for an 85-yard touchdown with 3:24 left to put the Buckeyes up by 14 to continue a late-season surge to the national championship.

No. 31 – Rose Bowl (Jan. 1, 2022): Ohio State 48, Utah 45

Ohio State receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba caught 15 passes for a bowl-record 347 yards and three touchdowns, and the Buckeyes needed every bit of that production in a wild, back-and-forth shootout. Utah jumped out to a 14-0 lead and had touchdowns of 97 and 62 yards in the second quarter. Ohio State answered with seemingly endless big-play connections from CJ Stroud to Smith-Njigba. When the Buckeyes took the lead late in the fourth quarter, unknown Utah backup quarterback — and pig farmer — Bryson Barnes relieved the injured Cameron Rising and tied the score with under two minutes left. Alas, the Utes’ upset bid fell short when Ohio State kicked the winning field goal with nine seconds left.

No. 19 – Rose Bowl (Jan. 1, 1997): Ohio State 20, Arizona State 17

No. 4 Ohio State won the Rose Bowl for the first time in 23 years, spoiling a possible Arizona State national title. Ohio State took a third-quarter lead on a 72-yard touchdown from Joe Germaine to Dimitrious Stanley. After a blocked field goal, Jake Plummer seemingly drove the No. 2 Sun Devils for the win with an 11-yard touchdown with 1:40 left, but the Buckeyes answered, as Germaine found David Boston for the winning points with 19 seconds to play.

Fun fact: I had family members who went to Pasadena, California, to cheer on the Buckeyes in this game. One of them bought a white crewneck with “The Rose Bowl” and “Ohio State” outlined in gray and a giant red rose in the middle. It was passed down to me long ago as a vintage thread, as the kids say, and it is one of my favorite possessions.

No. 4 – Fiesta Bowl (Jan. 3, 2003): Ohio State 31, Miami 24

Sixteen years after losing to Penn State in one famous game in Tempe, Miami returned for something similar against Ohio State, led by Maurice Clarett and a loaded defense. The Canes sent the game to overtime with a last-play field goal, seemingly won in the first OT before a controversial pass interference flag and lost to the Buckeyes in the second OT period. It was the only one of 16 BCS championship games to require extra time, and it ended Miami’s 34-game winning streak.

As far as rankings go, these aren’t bad. Although I would personally rank the 2014 Sugar Bowl higher because I was around to watch that one and can remember it like it was yesterday. Unfortunately, I can also remember a couple of the losses Brown featured on the list because, yes, Ohio State has had a lot of great bowl games favoring the other team during my lifetime, too.

The losses Brown featured were:

  • No. 43 – Rose Bowl (Jan. 1, 1980): USC 17, Ohio State 16

  • No. 29 – Fiesta Bowl (Dec. 28, 2019): Clemson 29, Ohio State 23

  • No. 16 – Peach Bowl (Dec. 31, 2022): Georgia 42, Ohio State 41

  • No. 11 – Rose Bowl (Jan. 1, 1975): USC 18, Ohio State 17

But hey! Those losses are behind us now. Let’s focus on the good stuff and move on to better and brighter futures. Maybe one day Ohio State will play the greatest bowl game of all time – even better than the USC vs. Texas Rose Bowl in 2006. That feels like blasphemy to write, but it could happen!

BOILER-SPOILERS. Ohio State men’s basketball welcomes top-ranked Purdue into the Schottenstein Center Thursday at 7 pm, and as the program has already done twice under Chris Holtmann, the Buckeyes will look to knock off the No. 1 team in the nation in Columbus.

The Boilermakers are fresh off a 65-64 loss to Rutgers, which causes Holtmann to believe Purdue head coach Matt Painter will have his players ready to play their best game all season against Ohio State, who reentered the AP Top 25 at No. 24 on Monday after wins over Alabama A&M and Northwestern last week.

In what will likely be the best matchup Ohio State plays at Value City Arena this year, we will see how far the youthful and inexperienced Basketbucks have come since the start of the season. It’s time for Brice Sensabaugh to stay hot, Justice Sueing to be aggressive and Zed Key to raise the roof. Everyone else can fall in line.

For those not crowding up the NutHouse on Thursday, you can watch the game at 7 pm on FS1. Let’s go be Boiler Spoilers.

SONG OF THE DAY. “Alone” by Trampled by Turtles.

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