Skull Session: Ohio State Ranks Second in ESPN’s Updated SP+ Projections, OSU is WRU and Marvin Harrison Jr. is a Complete College Football Player

Skull Session: Ohio State Ranks Second in ESPN’s Updated SP+ Projections, OSU is WRU and Marvin Harrison Jr. is a Complete College Football Player

Ohio State has been really good for a really long time. Here’s proof:

 THE BULLDOGS AND BUCKEYES. In the Wednesday Skull Session, I included an article from ESPN’s Bill Connelly that ranked the top 75 college football quarterbacks of the 2000s. While that article was opinion, what I am about to include from Connelly are facts – data, numbers, all that good stuff – in the form of his updated SP+ rankings for 2023.

1 Georgia 29.9 41.9 11.9
2 Ohio State 29.6 46.4 16.7
3 Michigan 29.2 42.0 12.9
4 Alabama 27.9 44.2 16.3
5 LSU 25.2 41.6 16.4
6 Tennessee 23.9 45.5 21.6
7 USC 23.6 46.4 22.8
8 Penn State 23.5 37.5 14.0
9 Texas 23.3 40.4 17.1
10 Florida State 21.6 38.4 16.8

On Thursday, Connelly released a post-spring SP+ top 25 now that the transfer portal has slowed down, conference media days are around the corner and we’re officially under 100 days from Sept. 2, “the first real Saturday of the 2023 college football season,” with respect to Week 0.

Connelly’s SP+ formula, which measures returning production, recent recruiting, recent on-field success and other factors such as tempo and opponent-adjusted measures of efficiency, churned out Georgia, Ohio State, Michigan, Alabama and LSU as the top-five teams in the country ahead of 2023. Tennessee, USC, Penn State, Texas and Florida State rounded out the top 10.

Ohio State’s total SP+ score was 29.6 – 0.3 points behind No. 1 Georgia and 0.4 points ahead of No. 3 Michigan. The Buckeyes’ offensive score ties USC as the best in the nation at 46.4, though Connelly has the Trojans as the top-ranked team in that category. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes’ defensive score of 16.7 is the 13th-best mark in the FBS.

Those three scores should encourage Ohio State fans, as the 2023 edition of the Buckeyes looks excellent on paper. Still, the true test of the team’s greatness will come in Bloomington, Indiana, on Sept. 2 and 11 of the next 12 weeks after that (12 of the next 13 weeks if Ohio State reaches the Big Ten Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium).

As mentioned above, Week 1 of the college football season is less than 100 days away – 99 days as of today – and I can’t wait to see what this year’s Buckeyes are made of.

 OHIO STATE IS WRU. As the NFL offseason continues, Pro Football Focus’ Sam Monson ranked the league’s top 32 wide receivers ahead of 2023. Of the 32, Monson featured four Buckeyes: Terry McLaurin, Garrett Wilson, Michael Thomas and Chris Olave, who combined to make Ohio State the most-represented school on his list.

Indeed, Monson has added more fuel to the fire that Ohio State is Wide Receiver U, not Alabama, who had three representatives (Amari Cooper, Jaylen Waddle, DaVonta Smith); LSU, who had two (Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase); or USC, who also had two (Amon-Ra St. Brown and Michael Pittman). The Buckeyes had four, and Brian Hartline promises more are on the way.

While we will have to wait and see what kind of success Ohio State’s current and future wide receivers will have in the NFL, we already know what McLaurin, Wilson, Thomas and Olave are capable of at the next level. Here is where Monson ranked them and some notes he made about the former Buckeyes:

(1) Davante Adams, (2) Justin Jefferson, (3) Tyreek Hill, (4) Ja’Marr Chase, (5) Stefon Diggs, (6) Cooper Kupp, (7) A.J. Brown

No. 8: Terry McLaurin

Since coming into the league, McLaurin has racked up more than 4,200 yards and 460 targets in four seasons with an ugly list of quarterbacks throwing him the football. He has a PFF receiving grade of at least 77.1 in each season, and passes thrown his way have generated a 101.2 passer rating, significantly higher than the baseline of those aforementioned quarterbacks.

(9) CeeDee Lamb, (10) Deebo Samuel, (11) Mike Evans, (12) DeAndre Hopkins

No. 13: Garrett Wilson

With Aaron Rodgers as his quarterback, Wilson could go to the moon in 2023. As a rookie, he trailed only Deebo Samuel in broken tackles (22) and gained more than 1,100 receiving yards despite a disastrous quarterback situation featuring three backup-caliber passers trying to get him the football. He is an outstanding route runner and has excellent body control and skills after the catch.

(14) D.K. Metcalf, (15) Amon-Ra St. Brown, (16) D.J. Moore, (17) Jaylen Waddle, (18) DeVonta Smith, (19) Tee Higgins, (20) Brandon Aiyuk, (21) Chris Godwin, (22) Amari Cooper, (23) Tyler Lockett, (24) Diontae Johnson, (25) Keenan Allen, (26) Brandin Cooks

No. 27: Michael Thomas

Another unknown quantity when it comes to ranking going forward, Thomas was one of the very best receivers in the game before injuries completely derailed his career. He has played in three games over the past two years, but even in those three games he caught three touchdowns and had 22 targets. If Thomas is legitimately healthy in 2023, he could rocket up these rankings.

(28) Calvin Ridley, (29) Mike Williams, (30) Michael Pittman, (31) Christian Kirk

No. 32: Chris Olave

Olave’s rookie season was exceptionally effective, with only opportunity holding him back from a truly impressive statistical output. He gained 2.42 yards per route run, which led all rookie receivers and ranked seventh overall, one spot behind Davante Adams. He was particularly effective as a deep threat, with an average depth of target 14.9 yards downfield.

Yeah, Ohio State is Wide Receiver U. It’s already not close. With Marvin Harrison Jr., Emeka Egbuka and several other talented pass-catchers on their way to the NFL in the future, the Grand Canyon-sized difference between the Buckeyes and the next-best program will only continue to widen. How wonderful.

 99 OVERALL CLUB. About Marvin Harrison Jr., if the new EA Sports College Football video game were to release today, do you think Harrison (or Route Man Marv, or Marvelous Marv, or Super Marv) would be a 99 overall player? I certainly think so, and so do PFF and the Ohio State football media team.

According to PFF’s metrics, Harrison ranked in the 99th percentile for his overall receiving grade, 98th percentile vs. man coverage, 99th percentile vs. zone coverage, 97th percentile for route running and 80th percentile for contested catch rate in 2022.

Is that good?

Harrison is one of five players PFF listed as would-be 99 overall players in EA Sports College Football. The others were USC quarterback Caleb Williams, Michigan running back Blake Corum, Georgia tight end Brock Bowers and Notre Dame offensive tackle Joe Alt.

I’ve heard a lot about this Alt fella recently. I look forward to watching him play when Ohio State visits South Bend, Indiana, on Sept. 23. More accurately, I look forward to JT Tuimoloau, Jack Sawyer, Kenyatta Jackson and Caden Curry taking his lunch money.

As for Harrison, I look forward to watching everything he does in 2023. He’s great.

 OLYMPIC VILLAGE. It’s summer, and all I can think about is golf. In Thursday’s Skull Session, I wrote that Bo Hoag will compete at The Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio, next weekend – as in, a week from now. What is not a week from now is the Ohio State men’s golf team’s trip to Scottsdale, Arizona, for the NCAA Championship on Friday, Saturday and Sunday this weekend.

Ohio State head coach Jay Moseley, a fine man from Bainbridge, Georgia, who exudes southern hospitality (i.e., the kind, warm, welcoming nature of southern Americans, excluding those who use phrases like “Roll Tide” or “Rocky Top”), appeared on 97.1 The Fan’s “Morning Juice” to discuss the Buckeyes’ appearance at Grayhawk Golf Club for the national tournament.

“This golf course is pretty unique. We will see really warm temperatures here in Arizona. Most of the courses here in Arizona are going through transitions here from the winter rye overseed to the dormant bermudagrass, but at Grayhawk they kept it as green as they could for TV this week. The greens will be extrememly firm, and they cut the water off, so these greens will bake throughout the day. It’s really a huge advantage for us to have been here last year and to know what to expect. The guys are dialed in and ready.

“If we play as well as we can and minimize the silly mistakes, we will be in good shape. The golf course is very penalizing if you miss it. … If we keep ourselves out of the desert and the snake pits, we will give ourselves a great chance.”

Ohio State will tee off at 10:05 a.m. ET on Friday and 3:35 p.m. ET on Saturday at Grayhawk Golf Club. The Buckeyes’ lineup will be the same as it was at the NCAA Auburn Regional, with Maxwell Moldovan, Adam Wallin, JonErik Alford, Jackson Chandler and Neal Shipley as the team’s starters.

If Moseley’s squad is to advance to match play on Sunday, it will be on the shoulders of Moldovan. The Uniontown, Ohio, native is one of 10 finalists for the 2023 Fred Haskins Award, presented to the best individual golfer in the NCAA, after collecting 10 top-10 and seven top-five finishes in 12 events this season. He will look to add to those totals this weekend at Grayhawk, where he shot 11-over par across 54 holes in 2022.

 SONG OF THE DAY. “What’s Love Got To Do With It” by Tina Turner (Because, for some reason, I didn’t include this on Thursday).

 CUT TO THE CHASE. America aged rapidly in the last decade as baby boomers grew older and births dropped… Chirping sounds lead airport officials to a bag filled with smuggled parrot eggs… Expect big crowds for the summer travel season – and big prices, too… Georgia reminds digital driver’s license users to wear clothes for photos… DC Comics’ boss knows the challenges ahead — and the problem superhero films can pose.

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