What Is the Toughest Game On the Ohio State Schedule?

Nebraska at Ohio State Buckeyes

Morning Conversational: What Is the Toughest Game On the Ohio State Schedule?

While Ohio State’s non-conference schedule does not have a Power 5 opponent on it this year, Phil Steele still has Ohio State with the 19th-toughest schedule in the nation. That number is good for second in the Big Ten behind Michigan at No. 8.

The lack of a Power 5 opponent came about because of the TCU series being moved to a one-off, “neutral-site” game last year in Dallas. Two reasons why OSU’s schedule didn’t take a big hit in some ratings is because they play nine conference games, and also because Cincinnati went 11-2 last year.

There are six bowl teams on Ohio State’s schedule this year, and that doesn’t include a road trip to Big Ten West upstart Nebraska, which many people believe is the toughest game on the Buckeyes’ schedule.

But is it really?

Let’s not forget that Ohio State has to travel to Michigan and Northwestern as well, and home games against Cincinnati, Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Penn State aren’t necessarily gimmes.

Looking back over the previous two seasons, neither the Iowa trip in 2017 or the Purdue game in 2018 were seen as the toughest games on the schedule. They were, however, seen as the biggest trap games.

So then the argument becomes which is the toughest game — the one against the most talented opponent, or the most obvious trap game.

The most talented team on Ohio State’s schedule is Michigan, but the Buckeyes have won this game by double digits in four of the last five seasons. The only game that was decided by fewer than 10 points was the double-overtime classic in 2016 when Buckeye quarterback JT Barrett easily and clearly picked up a fourth down to keep OSU’s hopes alive.

That 2016 season also featured a loss in a trap game. The Buckeyes went into Happy Valley as 19-point favorites, which is more than they were in either the Iowa or Purdue games. Penn State beat Ohio State 24-21 in that game.

Over the last five seasons, the Buckeyes have played nine teams ranked in the Top 10. They are 7-2 in those games. The lone losses were to No. 9 Michigan State in 2015 and No. 5 Oklahoma in 2017. Both at home.

The MSU game was a mess, and the OU game featured the Heisman Trophy winner.

But that doesn’t mean those seven wins weren’t the toughest games on OSU’s schedule. Collapsing as Ohio State did at Penn State, Iowa, and Purdue didn’t happen because those three teams were too tough, but rather because the Buckeyes went soft.

Without taking an actual poll, the assumed consensus on Ohio State’s three toughest games this season would be at Nebraska, at Northwestern, and at Michigan.

So which is the toughest?

It depends on your school of thought.

Do you see the toughest game as the one against the most talented? If so, that’s Michigan. And they need this win like no other team in the nation needs a win.

Or do you see the toughest game as the one mostly likely to jump up and snatch your soul?

That’s Nebraska. A versatile offense in a hostile environment where bad things happen to the road teams has been a terrible recipe for the Buckeyes of late, and Scott Frost is on his way to becoming a tremendous chef.

For me, however, I’ve got it this way.

12. Miami OH
11. Florida Atlantic
10. at Rutgers
9. Maryland
8. at Indiana
7. Penn State
6. Wisconsin
5. Cincinnati
4. Michigan State
3. at Northwestern
2. at Nebraska
1. at Michigan

15 Responses

  1. OSU has had their lunch handed to them in which they were told that these games would be trap game; see at IA and PUR.
    NE will be tough, trap games include Cinnci and NW.
    MI will be the toughest game.

  2. Cincinnati by far is the hardest game!
    This game reminds me a lot of the VT game in 2014. An experienced team, an experienced QB and a coach that will not be intimated by the OSU stadium or crowd. But it also reminds me a lot of the 2014 team. A new QB and a lot of new pieces. This game is so early in the season. That is the scary part. I think this OSU team will be like a locomotive in that it may start a little slow with all its new parts but at the end of the season it will be running on all cylinders.
    Remember there will be 4 new O linemen. A new HC. A new OC. A new DC. A new defense.
    Yes, Nebraska gave them a scare last year but I think that will actually motivate OSU to play better. There was no way that game should have been that close. The players know it. They were embarrassed at home. I expect them to play a lot better. Yes, Nebraska is a better team this year than they were last year but last year was more about OSU playing down than Nebraska playing up.
    By the time the Michigan game comes up this team, like the 2014 team, will be on a roll.

  3. I live in the Omaha NE metro area and have been here for over 30 years. They’ve tried to convert me over to ‘Big Red’, but never going to happen. As to this years game, i’ll be there sitting there with the former start LT who played for their last NC team, i.e. Adam Julch. If I had to pick who I feel the best coach is in the BIG, I would have to put Scott Frost in the top 3. I don’t know enough about ‘Day’ other than he ran the show for 3 games for us last year and won, and has done a bang up job with recruiting. That said, the best QB in the BIG (Martinez) will now have a year of starting experience under his belt and has a loaded receiving corp, which includes the TE position which we all know has been problematic for our guys the past couple of years. NE is motivated, playing at home and has who I consider to be the best BIG Head Coach…they almost beat a very talented Urban coached OSU team last year in Columbus…now they get us with a much better team who actually can play defense…i’m hopeful, but wouldn’t be shocked to see Nebraska beat us. I hope this doesn’t happen since i’ll be sitting with former Nebraska starting LT Adam Julch. Adam was on the last Nebraska team to win the National Championship under Coach Tom Osborne. The last thing I need is to have him and the other former Husker players sitting around me to have bragging rights…I hope we can come in and bring it to them. Of note, I was at the first game in Lincoln after Nebraska joined the BIG. We had Joe Boserman come in and blow a 3 score lead in the 2nd half and see Ohio State lose…it was the biggest comeback against Ohio State in history…let’s hope History doesn’t repeat itself. My pick: OSU 31 / UN 27

  4. Toughest Game?
    Nebraska and MSU tied

    Scary Trap Game?
    Cincinnati and/or Northwestern

    Most Important Game?
    THE Game

    1. 1. Scott Frost is a very good coach, but so far he has accomplished little at NE, Day was 3-0 including a good win at TCU as a head coach. Day’s recruiting is night and day over Frost’s…easily.
      2. Not sure I give much credit for NE and their close game at OSU. OSU was in their what I call their mid season ‘lull’ Too close a game at home vs. MN, the PUR blow out then NE. OSU was a different team at the end of last year in which they beat MI, took the wind out of WA and handled MSU easily. Should NE have played THAT OSU team it would have been an easy blow out win for OSU.
      3. Remember Boserman wasn’t a solo act in that blown game, our D was!
      4. I will take Fields any day over Martinez.
      5. No doubt, spot on about NE, they are up and coming.
      6. That will be a very difficult game for OSU!
      7. My final score prediction: OSU 48, NE 32.

    2. As usual James, you are a hammer on the nail. Spot on!

  5. Cincinnati and Northwestern are the “trap” games I would say for this year. I expect to win both, but we should beware.

  6. Your top 12 is surprising in a number of ways. I would go with this:

    12. at Rutgers
    11. Florida Atlantic
    10. Maryland
    9. Miami OH
    8. at Indiana
    7. at Nebraska
    6. at Northwestern
    5. Cincinnati
    4. at Michigan
    3. Michigan State
    2. Wisconsin
    1. Penn State

  7. I just want to say a thousand times, the most IMPORTANT game is still THE game.
    Let’s not give TTUN bulletin board material with something that says Nebraska will be our toughest game.
    I work in Ann Arbor, and these folks think this might be their year. You know, new coach and all…

    1. jeff, sorry about your workplace (haven’t you seen Chernobyl, and what happens when you’re surrounded by that kind of s**t for any length of time?), and i get where you’re coming from re The Game in principal; however i remain not-fooled by khaki. the talent gap has not shrunk; the coaching match-up even without the urban has not improved for them; ohio st. is in their head; and they’re coming off a historic beat-down a year ago when many actually thought they were good. and they’re supposed to be better this year, because….? i just don’t see it, no mater where it’s played.

  8. The toughest game will be ALL the games until Day becomes battle tested. This team, similar to the Browns, will either produce a spectacular season or a spectacular failure. I wouldn’t be surprised if this team goes 11-1, nor would I be surprised if they go 7-5. I simply don’t have faith in a coach that has never been a coach. Cincinnati could very well accomplish what only Oberlin has been able to do in the past 100 years: be an Ohio team and beat Ohio State in football.

  9. Good analysis I think; good result as well. Thank you.

    Cincinnati and MSt may be a tie. I think Coach Fick will be motivated and so will Dantonio.

  10. can’t argue anything in choice or analysis, but for me, the biggest “pit in my stomach” feeling is directed to the most-certain nationally televised night game at Neb. it feels just like one of those late fall night games at PSU, with white-out.

    1. I agree that Nebraska is going to become a royal pain in the ass with Scott Frost running the show and if I looked at the upcoming schedules correctly we play them every year for like the next 6 years. How does this happen with them being a west division crossover game?

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