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

Ohio State Buckeyes Football

Challenges await the Buckeyes throughout the 2022 season.

Expectations are always high for the Ohio State Buckeyes, and the 2022 college football season is no exception. Ohio State is coming off a "disappointing" 2021 campaign that saw the Buckeyes win 11 games and the Rose Bowl. Despite this success, fans are eager for a return to the College Football Playoff for a shot at a national title.

Related: Ohio State 2022 Season Preview and Prediction

Below is a ranking of the games on Ohio State's schedule this season, from what is perceived to be the least challenging matchup to the most difficult. The Buckeyes have the good fortune of starting out the season with five straight home games, but even within that stretch, there are a few that could cause Ryan Day's team some trouble.

12. Sept. 10 vs. Arkansas State

This will be the first-ever meeting between the Buckeyes and the Red Wolves. Arkansas State is coming off a 2-10 record in 2021, which is why this game appears in this spot. The Red Wolves' defensive coordinator is former Buckeye Rob Harley, who played on the 2002 national championship team. Even though Ohio State will be coming off of its season-opening showdown with Notre Dame this doesn't figure to be a happy homecoming for Harley.

11. Nov. 5 at Northwestern

It might be a surprise that this Big Ten matchup appears so high on this list but a closer look shows why. Traditionally, Northwestern has been strong defensively under Pat Fitzgerald, but last season the Wildcats wound up 89th in the nation. Conversely, Northwestern has been unable to develop a consistent offensive attack, highlighted by inconsistent play at quarterback. The Wildcats also will be coming off a road game at Iowa the week before hosting Ohio State so the Buckeyes should be able to get the final month of the regular season started with a comfortable W.

10. Sept. 17 vs. Toledo

The last time these two teams played in 2011, Toledo nearly pulled off the upset, with Ohio State holding on to win 27-22. Any time the Buckeyes play an in-state school, there is always a concern about complacency and possibly overlooking the opponent. A big game against Wisconsin follows this one, but Ohio State won't take the Rockets lightly. Toledo is one of the stronger programs in the MAC and will look to make a great impression for this game, which is set to air in prime time (7 p.m. ET) on FOX.

9. Oct. 1 vs. Rutgers

The win streak versus Rutgers is up to eight in a row and should be nine after the Scarlet Knights come to Ohio Stadium for Homecoming. Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano is slowly and surely building the Scarlet Knights into a competitive program. Like the aforementioned Toledo game, it will not be surprising if Rutgers decides to pull out some trick plays, a strategy the Knights used in their last visit to Columbus in 2020, a game the Buckeyes won 49-27.

8. Nov. 12 vs. Indiana

Last season was brutal for the Hoosiers, who went 2-10 overall and winless in the Big Ten. In 2020, Indiana gave Ohio State fits, with the Buckeyes scraping out a 42-35 victory. Hoosiers head coach Tom Allen is usually able to motivate his players to perform well against Ohio State, especially when the game is in Ohio Stadium, like in 2020 or in 2018 (a 49-26 Buckeyes victory).

7. Nov. 19 at Maryland

Ohio State has been lethal versus Maryland ever since Ryan Day took over as head coach, winning 73-14 in 2019 and 66-17 in 2021 (the two teams did not play in 2020 due to COVID). In 2018, the Buckeyes escaped with a 52-51 road win and this is the first time they will be back at Maryland Stadium since then. The Terrapins should have an exciting offense, led by quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa and a talented group of wide receivers. Considering how thoroughly Ohio State has dominated this series in recent years, how badly Maryland wants to flip the script, and the offensive firepower the Terps boast, this game could wind up being closer than Buckeyes fans will expect.

6. Oct. 8 at Michigan State

This game will mark Ohio State's first road trip of the season. The Buckeyes have had their way with the Spartans in recent years, even as head coach Mel Tucker is rebuilding the team into one of the better programs in the Big Ten. Ohio State was able to feast upon Michigan State's secondary last season, routing Sparty 56-7 at home. Look for Michigan State to try to control the clock by running the ball, although it will be a different player (Wisconsin transfer Jalen Berger perhaps?) with Doak Walker Award recipient Kenneth Walker III now in the NFL.

5. Oct. 22 vs. Iowa

This game will mark the first time that these two teams have met since the 2017 season, when Ohio State visited Kinnick Stadium and left with a humiliating 55-24 defeat. Iowa went 10-4 last season, including a Big Ten West title. Under long-time defensive coordinator Phil Parker, Iowa has been among the best units in the conference, and 2022 should be no exception, with players such as linebacker Jack Campbell and defensive back Riley Moss returning. Both the Buckeyes and Hawkeyes have a bye preceding this contest, so expect there to be plenty of build-up to this game, which is being marketed by Ohio State as "Scarlet The Shoe."

4. Oct. 29 at Penn State

Ohio State fans collectively breathed a sigh of relief when it was announced that this game at Penn State would not be a "White Out" affair, as the Buckeyes are used to playing in Beaver Stadium under those conditions and at night. Regardless of the setting, the Nittany Lions have been a tough opponent during James Franklin's tenure as Ohio State's largest margin of victory in recent seasons was 13 points (38-25) in 2020, a game that was played without fans in the stands.

3. Sept. 24 vs. Wisconsin

This game will be one of the biggest tests for Ohio State in 2022, and will arrive relatively early in the season. Ryan Day overhauled the defensive coaching staff and scheme in the offseason, and Wisconsin will be a good test to see where things stand. The Badgers' game plan is no secret – run the ball behind a mammoth, physical offensive line with Heisman Trophy candidate Braelon Allen as the ball carrier. The Buckeyes are expected to employ a 4-2-5 alignment this season under new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles but he may have to adjust his game plan to try and slow down Allen on the ground.

2. Sept. 1 vs. Notre Dame

Notre Dame will make its first trip to Ohio Stadium since the 1995 season, a 45-26 Buckeyes win that helped propel Eddie George to the Heisman Trophy. Not only does this game kick the season off for both teams, but it also serves as the regular-season debut for Fighting Irish head coach Marcus Freeman. The former Ohio State linebacker has ruffled some feathers with disparaging comments about his alma mater this offseason. Notre Dame projects to be a strong defensive team, led by end Isaiah Foskey. One of the most anticipated games of the entire season, fans will get their wish when these two storied programs go head-to-head in prime time (7:30 p.m. ET on ABC) in Week 1.

1. Nov. 26 vs. Michigan

THE GAME. "That Team Up North". The rancor for this rivalry contest is always high, but especially this year for Ohio State fans after Michigan put an emphatic end to the Buckeyes' eight-game win streak. If things fall right, this game could be a matchup of two undefeated teams playing for much more than just the Big Ten East title.

— Written by Chip Minnich, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He also is podcasting for Buckeye Scoop. Follow him on Twitter @ChipMinnich.