COLUMBUS, Ohio — There's going to be a new-look Big Ten in 2014 as Maryland and Rutgers transfer in and don't even have to sit out a year. Along with the two new additions comes conference realignment and two all new divisions.
Ranking Ohio State's 2014 Games in Order of Difficulty
By Tony Gerdeman
As such, the Ohio State football schedule is going to be unlike it has ever been before. The Buckeyes have never played Maryland or Rutgers before, and both are on the schedule next season.
2014 also brings the start of the College Football Playoff, where a berth could be decided based on the quality of a team's schedule. So given all of the changes, and the importance of schedule toughness, we thought we should take a look at the difficulty of the Buckeye schedule in 2014.
(Ranked from most difficult to least.)
1. Michigan State (Road) Nov 8
Buckeye fans won't like to hear it, but Michigan State is going to be favorited to win the Big Ten by many next season. While it's not the Michigan Game, it's the most important game on the schedule in terms of playoff and division title hopes. The game being in East Lansing will make things doubly tough.
2. Michigan (Home) Nov 29
The Wolverines have yet to make things easy for Urban Meyer, keeping both games in his tenure overly close. The Buckeyes will have the advantage this time around because they'll be playing this one in Columbus. However, playing in the Shoe didn't keep Michigan from making things extremely difficult in 2012.
3. Penn State (Road) Oct 25
Being third on this list might be an indication of the lack of big-time opponents on Ohio State's schedule next year. Penn State should be okay, after all they do return 15 starters from a team that went 7-5 last year, and anytime a team goes into Happy Valley, the Nittany Lions cannot be overlooked.
4. Maryland (Road) Oct 4
The Terrapins were 7-6 last season and return 17 starters, as well as some very productive second-teamers. This will be Ohio State's first game ever against Maryland, and it will be in College Park. This will also be the Terps first-ever home game in the Big Ten, so the atmosphere should be pretty unique.
5. Virginia Tech (Home) Sept 6
The Hokies represent Ohio State's big non-conference opponent next season, and they are coming off of a year where they went 8-5. They only return 12 starters, but the good news for Virginia Tech is that one of those starters is NOT quarterback Logan Thomas. Beware, the Hokies have talent and the pride to match.
6. Minnesota (Road) Nov 15
Minnesota had a much better season (8-5) than they were expected to have. The question now becomes whether or not they can repeat it. The Buckeyes will be playing this game one week after playing in East Lansing, so there is definitely a let-down alert to keep in mind.
7. Indiana (Home) Nov 22
The Hoosiers show up on Ohio State's schedule the week before the Michigan Game once again, so there will always be a little bit of question as to how things will go. They lead the Big Ten with 18 starters returning. New defensive coordinator Brian Knorr will be charged with making the Hoosiers a more balanced team.
8. Cincinnati (Home) Sept 27
The Bearcats went 9-4 last season, so maybe it's a testament to the schedule that they're this far down the list. That schedule was helped by playing in the American Athletic Conference. They return six starters from one of the nation's better defenses, but the Buckeyes have a bye week to prepare.
9. Navy (Road) Aug 30
Yes, Navy is always a pain to play against, but how many times do they actually beat a national power? They may be able to score on the Buckeyes, but they won't be able to stop them at all. Rutgers might have a better shot at beating Ohio State, but Navy will require more focus and better execution.
10. Rutgers (Home) Oct 18
Rutgers looked absolutely terrible at times last season, but they still managed to make it to a bowl game. They return nine starters from an offense that could theoretically be pretty productive in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes have a bye week prior to this game, which makes you wonder if the Big Ten is hazing Rutgers a bit.
11. Illinois (Home) Nov 1
Illinois has gone 1-15 in Big Ten play under head coach Tim Beckman. If they don't win at least three games in conference play, it's time to move on from him. One good thing going for the Illini is that the Buckeyes might be looking ahead one week to their game at Michigan State.
12. Kent State (Home) Sept 13
Kent State is Ohio State's only non-conference opponent in 2014 that didn't play in a bowl game last season. This is the lone non-conference "cupcake" on the schedule, so things are not expected to be close. If they are close, then maybe the Buckeyes were looking past Kent State to their upcoming bye week.
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