The Ohio State football team begins their season on Thursday August 31 in Bloomington, Indiana. They end the regular season in Ann Arbor, Michigan on November 25.
Between those two games are 10 other contests of varying degrees of difficulty, and it’s time to get those variances ranked in order.
The Buckeyes will hit the road five times this season. This is an odd year (the number, not the descriptor), which means four Big Ten home games and five Big Ten road games for OSU.
You already know the schedule, but let’s go over it chronologically before we go over it masmachologically.
Aug 31 at Indiana
Sept 9 Oklahoma
Sept 16 Army
Sept 23 UNLV
Sept 30 at Rutgers
Oct 7 Maryland
Oct 14 at Nebraska
Oct 28 Penn State
Nov 4 at Iowa
Nov 11 Michigan State
Nov 18 Illinois
Nov 25 at Michigan
Ohio State’s three crossover games with the B1G West are Nebraska, Iowa, and Illinois, with the first two on the road. The best news on this entire schedule is that I don’t have to travel to Champaign, Illinois, which is the coldest and windiest place on earth. Of course, I’ve never been to Iowa, though I hear it sure can get cold in Des Moines.
Even as I write this, I don’t know how these rankings are going to turn out. I prefer the spontaneity of it. (I do not, however, prefer the two minutes I just spent trying to spell “spontaneity” correctly before finally googling it.) (Turns out that unlike “team”, there’s an “i” in there.)
Anyway, whenever we do these rankings, it begins with the non-conference schedule, because that is always going to feature a team or two that is allowing Ohio State to beat them up for money.
At least until Rutgers was added, of course.
That’s enough build up, let’s get started. We’re doing this from most easiest to least easiest.
Las Vegas is to football what Las Vegas is to baseball. The Rebels’ over/under on wins is 5.5. This is one of those games that if Kenny Guiton was still around, he’d throw six touchdowns. Joe Burrow and Dwayne Haskins should both get time to throw the ball in this one. Maybe 100 yards rushing from a backup running back too.
The only reason this isn’t the most easiest is because the Buckeyes have to prepare for the triple option. Any time you throw the option in, things get a little more difficult. For the Ohio State offense, however, they’re gonna have to dial it back some or else people will start thinking they hate America.
I don’t expect much from Lovie Smith and Illinois as long as they are a couple. I’d like to see what Illinois could do with a new man. This game takes place the week before Michigan, so there may be some looking ahead. I just think the Buckeyes really need to take it to Illinois or else people will start thinking they hate America.
9. at Rutgers
Any time you have to travel to New Jersey, you are in danger of losing something. Be it a game, a wallet, several pints of blood, or all three. Rutgers has a quarterback situation right now much like the moon has a water situation. Still, I have a lot of respect for what Chris Ash did at Ohio State and that has to count for something, right?
Yeah, this game is in Ohio Stadium, but Maryland has some weapons on offense and six returning starters on defense. Plus, I saw their new quarterback Caleb Henderson at Friday Night Lights a few years ago and I was really impressed. Normally, I wouldn’t put so much stock in my own opinion, but I like what I’m hearing from myself about what I’ve seen.
7. Michigan State
The last time Michigan State came to Columbus they left with a win in a game that should have long been called due to poor weather. You people just don’t understand how cool and rainy it was. Anyway, the Spartans are a bit of a mess right now, but they still have talent. There is a momentum issue in East Lansing at the moment, and probably a confidence issue. Until that gets fixed, nothing else matters for Sparty.
6. at Indiana
This is probably just Kevin Wilson reverberations and Indiana should be rated somewhere closer to Maryland on this list, but it’s hard to forget what the Hoosiers have done against Urban Meyer’s teams. Of course, that was when Wilson was with the Hoosiers. Still, this is a road game, and it opens the season, so there are some mysteries here. Ultimately, however, we’ll find out that Kevin Wilson was both the disease and the cure for Hoosieritis.
5. at Iowa
The last time Ohio State traveled to Iowa was 2010, they needed a 14-yard run from Terrelle Pryor on fourth-and-10 on their way to a 20-17 win over the Hawkeyes. There won’t be anything easy about this game, and the fact that it is the fifth-least easy game on the schedule says some things about the teams that are yet to come.
4. at Nebraska
This is a bit like the Iowa game, except I think the Nebraska offense will be more able to make this a contest. Of course, if the Husker defense is busy giving up 63 points in the process, it won’t much matter. Fortunately for the Buckeyes, they get this game one week after facing Maryland, while the Huskers will be coming off of a game against Wisconsin. Teams always get a little bit beaten up after facing the Badgers.
3. Penn State
Let’s face it, Penn State has Ohio State’s number. They beat the Buckeyes last year and nearly did it in 2014 as well. Of course, those two games were played in State College. This game will be played in Columbus, where Penn State has lost its last two trips by a combined score of 101-24. The Nittany Lions might have the best offense in the conference, but it’s always been about how well their defense plays in this game.
Ohio State knows what to expect from Penn State, so they will gear up for them a little more. They also know what to expect from Oklahoma, which might bring some overconfidence. The Buckeyes took care of the Sooners pretty easily last year, and they might expect to do it again this year. Oklahoma has a new head coach and they’re going to want some revenge for last season. As long as Baker Mayfield stays alive (in football terms, not medical), the Sooners will have a shot.
1. at Michigan
This is the only answer, even if Michigan lost 48 starters. Ohio State is averaging 42 points per game in Ann Arbor under Urban Meyer, but this will be OSU’s first time facing a Don Brown defense in the Big House. And by the time this game rolls around, the Wolverines will have 22 returning starters because they’ll all be veterans by then.