Big Ten champions for the past two seasons, Ohio State enters the 2019 season with plenty of talent, but also plenty of questions. The usual exodus of players leaving Columbus for potential NFL stardom is nothing unusual. Ohio State has recruited well over the last several seasons, so there are players chomping at the bit to show what they can do. The questions arise at two crucial spots — head coach and quarterback.
First-year head coach Ryan Day, elevated to the position full-time after the retirement of Urban Meyer in December, is taking over a talented team that should once again be in the discussion for a possible berth in the College Football Playoff. With an overhaul of the defensive staff, Day has molded the coaching staff into a unit that he believes will keep the Buckeyes in the thick of any playoff discussions in 2019.
A transfer from Georgia, Justin Fields was granted immediate eligibility by the NCAA, and is widely believed to be the front-runner for the starting quarterback position. Fields will continue to battle redshirt freshman Matthew Baldwin for the starting job, as Day has stated that an announcement on the starting quarterback will not come until summer camp.
While Ohio State's non-conference schedule is not tremendously challenging, the Buckeyes have several games on their Big Ten schedule that will dictate if Ohio State can claim their third conference championship in a row. The typical games within East Division are on the schedule, as well as games versus formidable West Division opponents Nebraska, Northwestern, and Wisconsin.
Byes: Weeks 7, Week 10
Week 1 — Aug. 31 vs. Florida Atlantic (Columbus, Ohio)
Ohio State welcomes Florida Atlantic as an opponent for the first time. FAU is coming off a disappointing 5-7 season in 2018, but Ohio State should be able to make Ryan Day's first game as the Buckeyes' permanent head coach a comfortable win in Ohio Stadium.
Week 2 — Sept. 7 vs. Cincinnati (Columbus, Ohio)
Intrigue about this matchup will be considerable, as former Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell will make his first visit to Ohio Stadium as the opposing head coach. The Buckeyes have beaten Cincinnati 11 straight times. The Bearcats last defeated Ohio State way back in 1897 (24-0).
Week 3 — Sept. 14 at Indiana (Bloomington, Ind.)
Ohio State's first road trip of the season takes them to Bloomington. Indiana has not defeated Ohio State since 1989. The Hoosiers always seem to keep it close and make it interesting, especially when they are at home. This game should be no exception.
Week 4 — Sept. 21 vs. Miami (Ohio) (Columbus, Ohio)
Ohio State has traditionally played an in-state MAC opponent, and the 2019 season will bring the RedHawks to Columbus for the first time since the 2012 season. Miami is coming off a 6-6 season in 2018 that did not include a bowl berth.
Week 5 — Sept. 28 at Nebraska (Lincoln, Neb.)
Scott Frost's squad improved dramatically over the course of the 2018 season, winning four of its final six games to finish 4-8. Included in that second-half surge was a near-upset of the Buckeyes in Columbus last season. Nebraska will hope to do more than put a scare into Ohio State in 2019.
Week 6 — Oct. 5 vs. Michigan State (Columbus, Ohio)
This game against the Spartans has usually been a very physical affair, with the outcome having a dramatic impact upon The B1G East Division race. Ohio State has won the last three, a trend that Michigan State will look to put an end to in October.
Week 8 — Oct. 18 at Northwestern (Evanston, Ill.)
A rematch of the most recent Big Ten Championship Game, but this time it will take place on a Friday night at Ryan Field. The last time Ohio State visited Evanston was in 2013, a 40-30 victory that saw the Buckeyes rally in the fourth quarter for the win. Longtime Wildcats head coach Pat Fitzgerald is looking for Northwestern's first win over Ohio State since 2004.
Week 9 — Oct. 26 vs. Wisconsin (Columbus, Ohio)
The last time these two teams met was in the 2017 Big Ten Championship Game, which Ohio State won 27-21. This will be Paul Chryst's first visit to Ohio Stadium as the Badgers head coach, but he's familiar with the venue during his years as an assistant at the school. Since 2011, the Buckeyes are 6-0 against Wisconsin with all but one of the games (2014 Big Ten Championship Game) decided by no more than seven points.
Week 11 — Nov. 9 vs. Maryland (Columbus, Ohio)
Last season, Ohio State escaped College Park with a 52-51 overtime victory over Maryland in which the Terrapins opted to go for two and the win in the extra period but came up short. Maryland is 0-5 against the Buckeyes since joining the Big Ten in 2014 and has lost the two games in Ohio Stadium by a combined 69 points.
Week 12 — Nov. 16 at Rutgers (Piscataway, N.J.)
Ohio State has not taken it easy on former Buckeye defensive coordinator and current Rutgers head coach Chris Ash, defeating his Scarlet Knights by a combined 166-3 in their three meetings. This is the kind of game that could determine if Ash gets another year at the helm for Rutgers.
Week 13 — Nov. 23 vs. Penn State (Columbus, Ohio)
Two years in a row, Ohio State has defeated Penn State by one point. Do you think the Nittany Lions will come into Ohio Stadium a little primed for this game? This could serve as an elimination game in the Big Ten East race.
Week 14 — Nov. 30 at Michigan (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
"That Team Up North." THE GAME. All of the hyperbolic phrases associated with this contest are well-known by fans of both teams, and Jim Harbaugh will be under pressure to deliver a win over the hated Buckeyes. It would be surprising if the winner does not advance to play in the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis the following week.
(Top photo courtesy of ohiostatebuckeyes.com)