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Ranking the Toughest Games on Ohio State Football's Schedule

College Football Ohio State Buckeyes

College Football Ohio State Buckeyes

Heading into his seventh season as Ohio State's head coach, Urban Meyer has a team ready to defend its Big Ten championship, as well as contend for a berth in the College Football Playoff. Ohio State lost several key players to the NFL from its 2017 roster, most notably record-holding quarterback J.T. Barrett, but the Buckeyes have recruited very well under Meyer, and these younger players will be eager to show the college football world that they are prepared to keep Ohio State in playoff contention.

Ohio State Buckeyes RB J.K. Dobbins

Here is how the entire Ohio State football schedule ranks, from least difficult game to most challenging matchup.

12. Sept. 1 vs. Oregon State

First-year head coach Jonathan Smith will be taking the Beavers across the country into Ohio Stadium for what could be a rough start of the 2018 season. Don't forget Oregon State went 1-11 in 2017. This will be the first time these programs have met since 1984.

College football rankings: Oregon State

11. Sept. 8 vs. Rutgers

Former Ohio State assistant Chris Ash is slowly and methodically building Rutgers into a more competitive unit, but Ohio State has defeated the Scarlet Knights by an average score of 57-0 during Ash's tenure as Rutgers' head coach.

College football rankings: Rutgers

10. Sept. 22 vs. Tulane

This will be the first-ever meeting between Tulane and Ohio State. Tulane is coming off a 5-7 season in 2017 that saw the Green Wave lose three games by a total of six points. Will Tulane catch the Buckeyes looking ahead to their big game at Penn State the following week?

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9. Oct. 13 vs. Minnesota

Minnesota will make its first trip back to Ohio Stadium since the 2015 season. Minnesota will be coming off a road trip to Big Ten West Division rival Iowa. The last time Minnesota defeated Ohio State in Ohio Stadium was in 2000, when John Cooper was still the Buckeyes' head coach.

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8. Nov. 17 at Maryland

DJ Durkin has slowly made Maryland more competitive, even though the Terrapins are coming off a 4-8 record. The last time Ohio State played at Maryland was in 2016, a game the Buckeyes won 62-3.

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7. Oct. 6 vs. Indiana

Indiana has not beaten Ohio State since 1988, but the Hoosiers have been capable of throwing scares into the Buckeyes in Ohio Stadium. This game comes a week after Ohio State will have played what should be a difficult game on the road at Penn State, while Indiana will have just faced Rutgers on the road.

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6. Oct. 20 at Purdue

For whatever reason, Ohio State has had its share of struggles against Purdue, most notably whenever the game is played in West Lafayette. Purdue will be facing Ohio State for the first time since the 2013 season.

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5. Nov. 3 vs. Nebraska

Scott Frost was hired to bring back the glory days of Nebraska Cornhusker football. Nebraska has not defeated Ohio State since 2011, and Ohio State will be welcoming in the Cornhuskers after a bye week. Nebraska may catch Ohio State looking ahead to their big game in East Lansing against Michigan State.

Nebraska's college football logo

4. Nov. 10 at Michigan State

Ohio State has played close, physical games against Michigan State during Urban Meyer's tenure, but the Buckeyes have usually fared better in East Lansing against the Spartans. Considering how Ohio State routed Michigan State 48-3 in 2017, this should be a game that the Spartans will have circled on the calendar as possible payback.

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Michigan State

3. Sept. 29 at Penn State

Under the not surprised department, Penn State announced in April that the game against Ohio State will be the 2018 "White Out" game for the Nittany Lions. Penn State defeated Ohio State 24-21 in Beaver Stadium in 2016. The classic 39-38 comeback win by the Buckeyes last season will be on the minds of every Penn State coach, player and fan.

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Penn State

2. Nov. 24 vs. Michigan

That Team Up North. THE GAME. All offseason, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh has heard about how the Wolverines have not defeated Ohio State during his time as head coach. This one could determine the winner of the Big Ten East Division, and could dramatically impact the College Football Playoff discussion.

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Michigan

1. Sept. 22 vs. TCU (Arlington, Texas)

Labeled a neutral-site game, this game in AT&T Stadium comes in the third week of the season. With Ohio State having an inexperienced quarterback and a still-developing offensive line featuring new starters at left tackle and center, this will mark the first big challenge for the Buckeyes, against a TCU team coming off an 11-3 season.

College Football Top 25 Rankings: TCU

-- 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.