There are six college football teams that will play 11 Power 5 opponents this season — Northwestern, Purdue, Ohio State, Texas, West Virginia, and USC.
(There are no SEC teams that will even play 10 Power 5 opponents, by the way.)
Even though no team plays more Power 5 opponents than the Buckeyes, good luck finding somebody who will tell you how difficult their schedule is.
Of course, looking at the likes of Oregon State, Minnesota, and Rutgers on the schedule, I’m not sure there’s much bragging to do.
Outside of those three games — and Tulane, and probably Rutgers and maybe Maryland and Indiana, the rest of the schedule is pretty tough.
In order to give you an idea of just how tough, I thought it would be a good idea to rank the games on the Ohio State schedule in order of difficulty. Only then can you get the full picture of the murderer’s row coming up this season.
Tulane returns 14 starters from a team that went 5-7 with one-score losses to Navy, USF, Cincinnati, and SMU, which makes me think that maybe Oregon State should be here instead of the Green Wave.
11. Oregon State
The Beavers went 1-11 last year, but now they have a new head coach — who was once an Oregon State quarterback. Could he be the poor man’s Scott Frost? Eight starters return from a defense that gave up over 40 points seven times last season.
On Monday, Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck named a walk-on true freshman as the Gophers’ starting quarterback this season. Fortunately for that kid, whatever his name is, Minnesota has five warm-up games in order to get him ready for the Buckeyes.
Speaking of true freshman quarterbacks, Rutgers could be starting one as well in Artur Sitkowski, who once camped at Ohio State. This game takes place the second week of the season, so that’s not much time to become a seasoned vet.
The Hoosiers have had some moral success against Ohio State, but there is no reason to expect that to happen again this season. The game is in Columbus and the Hoosiers are replacing most of their defense. Head coach Tom Allen is a very good defensive coach, but plenty of good defensive coaches have lacked answers in Columbus.
7. at Maryland
Yes, there is a lot going on at Ohio State right now, but it’s a completely different animal compared to what is going on at Maryland. At this point, it is difficult to imagine D.J. Durkin returning this season, so it will be up to the Terps’ leaders to keep this team from falling apart. This game being on the road for the Buckeyes and in between Michigan State and Michigan makes it tougher than it should be.
Both the Buckeyes and the Huskers will come into this game on November 3 off of a bye week. Nebraska’s unproven quarterback will have eight starts under his belt — unless contenders Adrian Martinez and Tristan Gebbia keep trading the job back and forth. I have very high expectations for new head coach Scott Frost, so there will be upgrades everywhere.
5. at Purdue
One week after Ohio State tangles with the Gophers, they have to head to West Lafayette and take on the Purdue Boilermakers in a trap game. Purdue is returning nine starters from a pretty good offense last season and head coach Jeff Brohm is a superstar in the making. Of course, the last time the Buckeyes went to West Lafayette was in 2013 and they won 56-0.
4. vs. TCU
It’s a neutral site game about 20 miles away from TCU’s campus, but Buckeye fans are still going to travel very well. The Horned Frogs are breaking in a new starting quarterback, and starting nose tackle Ross Blacklock is lost for the season. TCU will warm up with Southern and SMU, but they play SMU on a Friday night, so they will have one extra day of prep for Ohio State.
3. at Michigan State
There will be some who may say that this is Ohio State’s most difficult game, and I wouldn’t put up much of an argument because it absolutely could be. However, the Buckeyes haven’t lost in East Lansing since 1999. The Spartans return 19 starters, which is more relevant than the last time they beat Ohio State at home. Expect a rowdy crowd and a Michigan State team looking for a measure of revenge for last year’s 48-3 throttling in Columbus.
I know I just said the length of time since a particular win in a particular venue wasn’t relevant information, but just for conversational purposes, the last time Michigan won in Columbus was 2000. The Wolverines will be the most talented team the Buckeyes play, but getting them at home is a huge help relative to the next game on this list.
1. at Penn State
Ask any Buckeye who has been around for at least two years where the most difficult place to play is and they will tell you Penn State. The last two outings have showcased those difficulties quite well. Defensively, the Nittany Lions need to find some replacements, and losing running back Saquon Barkley and offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead are significant. All of that being said, a night game in Happy Valley is probably going to be first on this list for the foreseeable future.