It's no secret that expectations for this season are higher than normal (and by normal, I mean the sometimes unreasonable assumption that anything less than a MNC run is a letdown of some sort). The 2008 class is coming to fruition after all, led by a once-in-a-generation talent coming off his finest performance as a Buckeye.
To accomplish what this team expects to accomplish, a lot of things must break Ohio State's way, however. There will be the invariable need for a miracle play to get the team out of a bind, whether it's the Flea Kicker
, Holy Buckeye
, or Rocky Block
. The team will need to avoid injuries -- or at least season-enders. And finally, the schedule must be kind.
Fortunately for us, the 2010 Ohio State football schedule is more than kind. It's practically flirting with us.
It all starts with Gene Smith's shrewd move to bump the opener against Marshall up to Thursday night. Not only does that give everyone a rare Labor Day weekend, free of Buckeye football (and thus making the long holiday weekend travel-friendly), but it provides the Buckeyes with two extra days of preparation for the marquee out-of-conference matchup with the Hurricanes in week two. The Canes open their own season on the same Thursday night, so the teams will technically have equal prep time for each other, but if Smith hadn't made the move, Miami would have a two-game head-start on the Buckeyes getting ready for that game.
The Buckeyes follow-up the Miami game with home tilts against Ohio and an Eastern Michigan team coming off of an 0-12 season in weeks three and four. Those two home games, part of four-straight at the Shoe to open the season, will provide an opportunity to get bodies rested and some of the younger players valuable minutes ahead of the start of Big Ten play.
Kicking off conference play, the Buckeyes travel to Illinois in week five before welcoming Indiana to Columbus in week six. The Illini under Zook might well be circling the drain and the Hoosiers, being the Hoosiers, provide further opportunities to fine-tune the timing of the offense ahead of the huge matchup in Madison with a Wisconsin squad returning 18 starters.
It won't be easy escaping Camp Randall with a win as the Badgers are probably the most balanced team in the conference with Tolzien, Clay and Toon, but should the Buckeyes prevail, they have a revenge matchup at home with Purdue the following week before traveling to TCF Bank Stadium to face a depleted Minnesota. And then things really get fun.
OSU once again faces the season-ending gauntlet of Penn State, Iowa and Michigan, but unlike last season, Tressel's crew gets a bye before welcoming Penn State to Columbus on November 13th. Think that week off won't be key to healing the dings after a five game stretch of Big Ten play?
The fact that the Buckeyes also catch Penn State and Michigan (the two teams most likely to have stood in Ohio State's path on the quest for a conference title over the last decade and a half) at home is huge. The road trip to Kinnick will be no walk in the park, especially when Adrian Clayborn is lining up for the other guys, but OSU has experience marching into Iowa City and ruining weekends this decade.
So, in summary: Get an early jump on the Canes, tune up with Ohio, EMU, Illinois and Indiana ahead of the key trip to Wisconsin. Then recharge with games against Purdue and Minnesota before taking a week off to settle things in the conference and the national championship picture.
Sounds pretty simple, right?
Looking at the schedule, what games do you foresee as being maybe harder than expected or potential trap games?