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
8. at Indiana
7. Penn State
4. Michigan State
3. at Northwestern
2. at Nebraska
1. at Michigan