Ohio State Football: Ranking the Toughest Games on the Buckeyes' Schedule

Ryan Day's first season As Ohio State's head coach has its challenges

Officially taking over as Ohio State's head coach on Jan. 2, Ryan Day has been continually on the move to keep the Buckeyes near the top of the college football landscape. Day quickly assembled his staff, finalized the 2019 recruiting class, and began to prepare for the upcoming season with question marks at several key positions, most notably, at quarterback.

 

The upcoming season is not the most difficult in school history but the schedule has its shares of potential trapdoors and landmines that could eliminate Ohio State from the College Football Playoff conversation. Day knows firsthand how the Buckeyes have been on the outside looking in at the playoff, as the Buckeyes suffered painful losses in 2017 at Iowa and in '18 at Purdue. All eyes will be on Day to see if he can navigate his team past any pitfalls this upcoming season.

 

With an unsettled offensive line and a new starter at quarterback, Day will need to make the most of the upcoming fall camp to make sure the Buckeyes are ready to go for their Aug. 30 season opener. Once again, Ohio State has the talent to be a national title contender. It just remains to be seen if Day can bring all of this talent together to form a cohesive team.

 

12. Sept. 21 vs. Miami (Ohio)

Miami is coming off a 6-6 record that did not result in a bowl appearance. The RedHawks have pulled off some upsets previously, beating teams like LSU, Northwestern, North Carolina and Virginia Tech.

 

But Miami has had no success against Ohio State, sporting an 0-5 record against the Buckeyes. The last time these two teams played was in 2012, a game Ohio State won handily, 56-10. Expect more of the same this time around.

 

11. Nov. 16 at Rutgers

Chris Ash served as an assistant under Urban Meyer (2014-15) but was already the head coach at Rutgers when Ryan Day came to Columbus in 2017. Perhaps Day will take it easier on Ash than Meyer did, but don't count on it.

 

Ohio State has won the last three meetings by an average of 54 points per game so the odds of the Scarlet Knights being able to keep pace with the Buckeyes seem remote. While no one is expecting an upset here, Ash does need to find a way to win more games this fall after going 7-29 in his first three seasons. Rutgers not only gets this game at home but also will be coming off of a bye. The Scarlet Knights need all the breaks they can get.

 

10. Aug. 30 vs. Florida Atlantic

The season opener for both teams, this also will mark the first-ever meeting between them. Coming off of a 5-7 finish, FAU lost the last two games of the 2018 season by a combined six points. Lane Kiffin has built a reputation as an innovative offensive-minded coach but he has to replace one of the nation's most productive running backs in Devin Singletary and is on his third defensive coordinator in as many years. This will be a good test to see how far Ohio State's defense has come but the Owls shouldn't stress the Buckeyes too much at home.

 

9. Sept. 14 at Indiana

Oct. 8, 1988, was the last time Ohio State traveled to Bloomington, Indiana, and left Memorial Stadium with a loss to the Hoosiers. Head coach Tom Allen will be doing everything in his power to dramatically impact the one-sidedness of this division rivalry.

 

This will be Ryan Day's first official road game as Buckeyes head coach. (He was the interim when Ohio State defeated TCU in AT&T Stadium last September.) This is another game where the defense will be the focus as Indiana finished third in the Big Ten in passing offense last year at 258 yards per game.

 

8. Nov. 9 vs. Maryland

Even though Ohio State beat Maryland in College Park last season the Buckeyes were fortunate to escape with a 52-51 victory. The Terrapins outplayed Ohio State for most of the game, needing a failed two-point conversion to secure the win. Mike Locksley has taken over as Maryland's head coach so the Buckeyes should have the advantage in this one. However, that doesn't mean Ohio State shouldn't be on upset alert, even with this game being at home.

 

 

7. Sept. 7 vs. Cincinnati

Luke Fickell will make his return to Ohio Stadium since becoming the Bearcats head coach in 2017. A former Ohio State defensive lineman and longtime assistant under both Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer, Fickell is well acquainted with the inner workings of the Ohio State program.

 

Coming off an 11-2 record in 2018 that culminated with a 35-31 Military Bowl win over Virginia Tech, Cincinnati won't be intimidated by the Buckeyes. Ohio State has defeated Cincinnati 11 straight times, a streak that dates back to 1897.

 

6. Oct. 5 vs. Michigan State

Even though the last three games have been decided in Ohio State's favor, fans have every reason to be leery about this matchup. The fact that this is a home night game does not provide much comfort either, as some of the most crushing defeats for the Buckeyes have come courtesy of the Spartans under the lights of Ohio Stadium (1998, 2015).

 

Michigan State was rock-solid on defense (third in yards allowed per game in Big Ten) last season but struggled mightily on offense (13th). Mark Dantonio will need a more balanced effort from his team if the Spartans want to take out Ohio State at home once again.

 

5. Oct. 26 vs. Wisconsin

Wisconsin is coming off a disappointing 2018 season that saw the Badgers finish 8-5. Considering the talent on the roster, don’t be surprised if head coach Paul Chryst turns things around in 2019.

 

Ohio State currently enjoys a six-game winning streak against Wisconsin, including a 59-0 demolition of the Badgers in the 2014 Big Ten Championship Game. That beatdown aside, the other five games in his stretch have been decided by an average of 6.2 points. It will be surprising if this game does not fall in line with this pattern.

 

4. Nov. 23 vs. Penn State

For the last two years, Penn State has had Ohio State on the ropes but somehow the Buckeyes have found a way to pull it out late. This pair of one-point wins has only added fuel to this rivalry, which will take place in the latter part of November this year after being scheduled in September and October the previous two seasons.

 

Penn State head coach James Franklin not only has the challenge of trying to knock off Ohio State at home but he is tasked with having to break in a new starting quarterback and running back following the departures of Trace McSorley and Miles Sanders. This will be the last home game for the Buckeyes' seniors (and those who choose to leave early for the NFL).

 

3. Oct. 18 at Northwestern

Ohio State will make its first trip to Evanston, Illinois, since the 2013 season for a rare Friday night game and rematch of last season's Big Ten Championship Game. The Buckeyes defeated the Wildcats 45-24 in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis last December, but much has changed for both teams since then.

 

Ryan Day is now Ohio State's head coach and both he and Northwestern counterpart Pat Fitzgerald are tasked with replacing their starting quarterbacks. This may be more of a challenge for Fitzgerald, who is expected to turn to Clemson transfer Hunter Johnson to fill Clayton Thorson's big shoes.

 

2. Sept. 28 at Nebraska

Last November, Ohio State was able to hold off Scott Frost's Cornhuskers 36-31 in Ohio Stadium. This year, the Buckeyes travel to Lincoln and the expectation is that Nebraska will take another step forward in Frost's second season at the helm.

 

The Huskers may have finished 4-8 in 2018 but they finished the season by winning four of their final six games. This could end up being a preview of the Big Ten Championship Game in December.

 

1. Nov. 30 at Michigan

THE GAME. "That Team Up North." For the last four seasons, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh has heard about how the Wolverines need to defeat the hated Buckeyes. Last season's stunning 62-39 loss in Columbus only added more fuel to the fire, as the defeat knocked the Wolverines out of the Big Ten title game and College Football Playoff conversation.

 

Every season, fans of both schools often remark that the records do not mean a thing, as many games have been won by the seemingly-inferior team. This season, many preseason publications have tabbed Michigan as the favorite to win the Big Ten. No one would be surprised if the eventual conference champ is whichever team wins this game.

 

— Written by Chip Minnich, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He also is writing and podcasting for www.theozone.net. Follow him on Twitter @ChipMinnich.

 

(Top photo courtesy of ohiostatebuckeyes.com)

Include in Acu Data Feed: 
Exclude from Acu-data Feed

More Stories: