2014 Season Preview: Know Your Enemies

By Patrick Maks on August 14, 2014 at 8:15a
30 Comments
Eleven Warriors' 2014 Ohio State Football Season Preview

The road to a berth in the first-ever college football playoff is long and winding. For Ohio State, previously invincible winners of 24-straight games before stumbling in big-time bouts against Michigan State and Clemson, this fall is another chance to try and reach the sport’s zenith. Here are the teams that stand in their way. 


Navy

  • When: Aug. 30 at Noon
  • Where: M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore
  • What: For Ohio State, the good thing about opening against Navy is the Midshipmen should pose little threat through the air for a pass defense that finished 112th last season. The bad news is how the Buckeyes have spent countless hours preparing for an offense it likely won't see again for the duration of the 2014 season. It's why Ohio State's first season-opener played in somewhere other than Columbus in 15 years is basically one giant curveball. Ken Niumatalolo's squad isn't a pushover and, while athletically overmatched, Navy could keep things close. Remember this? Sure you do. 

Virginia Tech

  • When: Sept. 6 at 8 p.m.
  • Where: Ohio Stadium in Columbus
  • What: When Ohio State and Virginia Tech agreed to play this home-and-home series, the Hokies were among the nation’s top programs and the biggest dog in the ACC. Since then, coach Frank Beamer’s squad has fallen off a bit, going 15-11 over the last two seasons. This bout loses a lot of its luster because of that. And in what's the first of five primetime games for Meyer and Co. this fall, you’d figure the Buckeyes are going to be jacked up. Virginia Tech, though, known for its consistently stout defense (finished fourth-best in total defense and 11th-best in scoring defense in 2013) and special teams, could be able to hang if it can create problems for an unproven offensive line that replaces four starters and a stable of talented, but inexperienced, running backs. 

Kent State

  • When: Sept. 13 at Noon
  • Where: Ohio Stadium in Columbus
  • What: Led by former Ohio State assistant Paul Haynes, Kent State should exit Ohio Stadium as innocuously as it will slip in. The Golden Flashes probably don’t stand much of a chance in this one. Sophomore quarterback Colin Reardon completed 59 percent of his passes for 1,957 yards and 12 touchdowns to nine interceptions last season. Meaning, Kent State probably isn’t going to impose much of a challenge on a pass defense that’ll probably still be trying gel early in the year. The Golden Flashes are outmanned in just about every possible way against a team that’s simply athletically, strategically, financially superior. You know that already, and Kent State probably does too. 

Cincinnati

  • When: Sept. 27 at 6 p.m.
  • Where: Ohio Stadium in Columbus
  • What: Aside from the obvious tension that comes from being in-state foes, this is the first time Urban Meyer and Tommy Tuberville will face each other since 2007. On a sultry evening in Gainesville, Fla., Tuberville's Auburn Tigers (and massive underdogs) knocked off Meyer's Florida Gators (and defending national champions) on a last-second field goal in the Swamp. In fact, Meyer, for all the success he's had, is 0-2 against Tuberville. Things, obviously, will be different when Ohio State and Cincinnati do battle under the lights in Columbus. But such a nugget adds texture to a game that already offers an intriguing matchup between two schools that don't really like each other. On top of it, the Bearcats have the talent to play with the Buckeyes. They return 14 starters, ranked ninth-best in total defense/14th-best in scoring defense, and will be in the hunt to win the American Conference. Can Cincinnati upset Ohio State?  Sure. Anything's possible. It's probably a reach, but the theatre of the game will be among the best this fall. 

Maryland

  • When: Oct. 4 at TBA
  • Where: Byrd Stadium in College Park, Md.  
  • What: In its last year in the ACC, Maryland started 4-0 before an embarrassing 63-0 loss to Florida State sent it into a tailspin. The Terrapins lost the last five of their last seven games and enter this season with much to prove in more ways than one. A bout against Ohio State will mark Maryland's first home game as a member of the Big Ten. The buzz around College Park on that day could be something special, but Randy Edsall's squad isn't going to be favored against the Buckeyes. The Terrapins return 17 starters from a year ago, including one of the nation's best wide receivers in Stefon Diggs, who missed the final six games of 2013 after breaking his leg midseason. You'll want to remember that name because he'll give the Buckeyes fits regardless if they shore up the pass defense or not. Diggs could start at Ohio State, Florida State, Auburn, Texas or any school in the country. He's that good. 

Rutgers

  • When: Oct. 18 at 3:30 p.m.
  • Where: Ohio Stadium in Columbus
  • What: Like Maryland, Rutgers enters the Big Ten with a lot to prove. Unlike the Terrapins, however, the Scarlet Knights seem to be in a far more precarious position than their newly-added counterparts to the south. Rutgers, which has been a lightning rod for PR nightmares lately, was equally inept on the field as it was off of it last season. In respect to talent and coaching, Ohio State should have little problem dispatching a team that went 6-7 last season under coach Kyle Flood. 

Penn State 

  • When: Oct. 25 at 8 p.m. 
  • Where: Beaver Stadium in State College, Pa.
  • What: Ohio State is, and will be, the better team when it plays Penn State, but I'm putting the Buckeyes on DEFCON 5 when it heads to Happy Valley. The theatre of this game should be incredible. It's under the lights, it's going to be a white-out, and it's a chance for the budding James Franklin-Urban Meyer recruiting war to play itself out on the field. Weird things happen in State College, too. Watching the Nittany Lions knock off the Buckeyes wouldn't surprise me. Sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg has a cannon for an arm and won't be the same skittish kid Ohio State mauled during a 63-14 thrashing in Columbus last year. As he goes, so goes the Penn State offense -- especially without former stud wide receiver Allen Robinson to lean on. The good news for Ohio State, though, is Penn State is awfully thin on the offensive line, which is especially troubling considering the Buckeyes' tree-shredder of a defensive front. If Ohio State can cause problems in the trenches and smother Hackenberg, they should be able to evade another upset in State College. 

Illinois

  • When: Nov. 1 at 8 p.m.
  • Where: Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio 
  • What: The good news is the Big Ten is opening itself up to the 20th century by having night games in November. The bad news is the first of such contests is against Illinois. The Fighting Illini went 4-8 and beat Purdue to finally win their first Big Ten game since 2011. Gone is a talented quarterback in Nathan Scheelhaase, who threw for 288 yards and two touchdowns in a 60-35 loss to Ohio State in Champaign in 2013. Tim Beckman's squad will have to show marked improvement to keep him off a hot seat that's growing warmer with every setback. Beating the Buckeyes would be a landmark win, but the program seems lightyears away from being able to field a competitive product to do so. 

Michigan State

  • When: Nov. 8 at 8 p.m.
  • Where: Spartan Stadium in East Lansing 
  • What: You already have this game circled. So does Braxton Miller, who said "I ain’t eyeing it right now, I’m just taking it one game at a time, but when the time comes, I’m gonna be it eyeing it hard. Harder than ever" at Big Ten Media Days a couple weeks ago. Just in case you repressed it from your memory already, Michigan State knocked off mighty Ohio State in the Big Ten championship and snapped its 24-game winning streak last December. The Spartans went on to win the Rose Bowl while the Buckeyes lost to Clemson in the Orange Bowl. It's why a lot of people consider Mark Dantonio's squad the team to beat in the Big Ten. If you ask Miller, he'll tell you otherwise: "We ain't chasing them. We just came up short, we was thinking about a bigger picture at the time. We’re gonna correct it this year." 

Minnesota

  • When: Nov. 15 at TBA
  • Where: TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis  
  • What: Without head coach Jerry Kill, who spent time away from the sideline because ongoing and crippling seizures, Minnesota finished 8-5 after three-game skid to end last season. It was, however, somewhat of a breakout year for the Golden Gophers, which have become more or less of a Big Ten doormat lately. This could be a trap game for Ohio State, which will be coming off a highly-charged rematch against Michigan State. Win or loss, the Golden Gophers, which return a veteran squad this fall, could catch the Buckeyes asleep at the wheel. 

Indiana

  • When: Nov. 22 at TBA
  • Where: Ohio Stadium in Columbus
  • What: Indiana’s cache of offensive talent continues to grow, but the defense is still very much Indiana-like after surrendering an average of 40 points and more than 500 yards of total offense last season. The Hoosiers hired new defensive coordinator Brian Knorr to fix a problem that's stunted their ability to rise up the Big Ten ladder. On offense, however, as Ohio State found out in a bizarre 2012 game in Bloomington, Kevin Wilson’s spread offense is something to contend with. But last year, the Buckeyes -- for all their defensive woes -- still managed to smother the Hoosiers in Columbus. Wide receivers Cody Latimer and Kofi Hughes are gone, but Shame Wynn will put Ohio State's secondary to the test. 

Michigan

  • When: Nov. 29 at TBA
  • Where: Ohio Stadium in Columbus
  • What: Brady Hoke’s probably coaching for his job in this one so you can believe Michigan’ going to give Ohio State as good a punch as any. Considering where these two programs are at, though, it's going to be hard for the Wolverines to pull off a win in Columbus -- especially if the Buckeyes are legitimate contenders for a spot in the college football playoff. Because it's even harder to imagine an Urban Meyer-coached squad that'll let its guard down for a game that matters so much to both programs. Of course, anything can happen in The Game. We saw that last year when Michigan came a play away from toppling Ohio State in Ann Arbor. Still, the Wolverines haven't won in Ohio Stadium since 2000. There's little to suggest it'll happen in 2014. 
30 Comments

Comments

Dayton Buckeye's picture

The Penn state game scares me. It is at happy Valley correct?  It states at home above.

+4 HS
kiester's picture

Yes, it is an away game for the Good Guys.  

+1 HS
rkylet83's picture

It's so awesome that Michigan hasn't won in Columbus since 2000.    

+5 HS
Shangheyed's picture

Is indeed!  That said many don't remember the Cooper Years... let's keep this ball rolling.

apack614's picture

God, I'll have to watch my blood pressure on Nov. 8th I have a feeling its going to be pretty damn high!

"If we worked half as hard as our band, we'd be champions." - Woody Hayes

+1 HS
THE's picture

I love this little rivalry with Sparty that is ramping up. A Tressel disciple coming back as the line conference Thorne in our side. 

PSU looks to have new life. It will be nice to have them back in the mix. 

Michigan, you never know with mediocre Hoke, but they have at least been recruiting well...so the next coach should have some talent in the cupboard. 

If we get a solid showing out if Wisco and/or Nebraska in the west, we can have a meaningful title game. 

Things are looking to be on the mend for the B1G in this new playoff era. 

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

+1 HS
buckeye92's picture

It would be great for the Big Ten if Nebraska were to return to a high level nationally.

shaggybuckeye's picture

I'd say look out for Iowa in the West. They have a favorable schedule and are due for one of their once a decade good seasons.

+1 HS
Optimistic Buckeye Pessimist's picture

Will there ever be a time where OSU doesn't schedule so far in advance?  It's been biting us in the rear for a few years now. 

Read my entire screen name....

-1 HS
IGotAWoody's picture

You HAVE to schedule games well in advance. Last minute cancellations are how you end up with a team like FA&M on the schedule. Because of this, it's wise to schedule home and homes against the likes of Oklahoma, USC and Texas, teams that are consistently good.

 - License to kill gophers (wolverines, badgers, etc) by the government of the United Nations

MauricXe's picture

I think playing Navy will be great for our defense. The corners won't get any action but the linebackers will grow up that day. They have a great chance to play some team ball and really get after it. There will be lots of reading, pursuit, block shedding, and tackling practice.

+3 HS
tosubuckeye's picture

Obviously our team is well coached to take each opponent seriously,  With that being said Teams that I believe will give us a "punch-back" are in order: Michigan State and Minnesota (and both of these teams are flawed). I believe the jury is still out on Mich St. Are they a 1-year wonder? Overrated? True they have matched our win total over the past 5 yrs. Obviously they have good coaching and have done a good job of coaching players up. However, I believe the well is more half empty, and as such leads me to this conclusion:  Football is a numbers game and in order to execute the x's and o's you got to have Billy and Joe's. Do they?

Minnesota will be the surprise team. They are fundamentally sound, execute with good precision, and our well coached.  I believe we will play this team twice; the second time obviously for the BIG title in Indy. The good news for us Buckeyes are their offense definitely plays into our defensive strengths.

The remaining games I see as double digit wins. Not to disrespect our opponents but I believe on both sides of the ball our personnel is stronger, bigger, and faster than anyone. Matchups should favor us in almost every category. Coaching and team health are the key variables. In the near future PSU will join Mich St as a consistent formidable opponent.  We will always be up for ttun regardless of their ineptitude. GO BUCKS!!!!

tosubuckeye
 

bakerjon's picture

I keep looking at the Minnesota game a little sideways.  On the road, after Sparty. I think the MSU game is a toss-up and will be emotional and draining whichever way it lands.  Minny seems like a trap game to me. Anyone else have that sinking feeling? I keep telling myself that superior athletes prevail.  I trust UFM to get the team ready.   But still...

"He Good!"
"Good and terrible..."

BierStube's picture

I remember hearing VT was considered a big win that bolstered Alabama's overall schedule last year ... again that was early on!

"No matter where you go, there you are." B. Banzai

southbay's picture

The Hokies didn't look so good in their bowl game against UCLA as I recall.  Had a very tough time scoring against a mediocre defense. They were playing without injured QB Logan Thomas, but I think he's gone now anyway.  

southbay's picture

I think the Indiana WRs name is Shane Wynn, and since the 2012 game was mentioned, was that maybe a Freudian slip?  

+1 HS
What Would Troy Smith Do's picture

I'm already starting to get nervous.  That is my default feeling before games.  Except maybe teams like FAMU.

+1 HS
Brandon26841's picture

But last year, the Buckeyes -- for all their defensive woes -- still managed to smother the Hoosiers in Columbus.

I've never understood why people act like the defense actually had a good game against Indiana last season. They gave up 442 yards to them, and it felt like Indiana was shredding them just like everyone else had throughout the year. 

Kept them out of the endzone though for the most part, but eh.

+2 HS
Poison nuts's picture

Very true. Went to the game & was never comfortable as Indiana would move the ball at will until they got into scoring range. Then they would stumble - but yeah, OSU didn't exactly beat them the way the score said they did.

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

Citrus's picture

I am shocked that a picture of Danantonio exists. Saw the man pre B1G championship game prepping on the team bus and it seemed his scowl was made of iron. 

Respectthebox's picture

Uh, did he say, "Buccaneers"?!?!

buckeyepastor's picture

The thing that scares me about Michigan is not that they will beat us, but that the rivalry will again take enough out of us that the conference title game again trips us up.   I don't recall OSU making excuses for their loss last year, but I know that Michigan, emotionally and physically, most seasons takes a lot out of the team.   The days when THE GAME was the end of things until late December or January are over.   We have to put our rival to rest and take their best shot knowing that we can't have guys aggravating injuries and playing hurt as they've felt free to do for most years in the rivarly, because we need everyone healthy and good to go 7 days later.   All the stories I've heard over the years from players about THE GAME, about guys being too sore to run several days after it was over, guys needing over a week to recover, makes me nervous for that championship game.   

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

+1 HS
THEOSUfan's picture

I hear what you are saying, but I don't think it was scUM, the rivalry, or any of that kind of stuff that affected them the next week

One, I think MSU Tressel-balled us to death.  They got the lead, ran the ball, got some timely big pass completions, and they punted and kicked some field goals when they couldn't move or score.

Second, OSU went into the B1G Champ Game having just given up 41 freakin points vs. an offense that could not run the ball!  That's not much of a reason to feel very good about yourself.  If they didn't know it up to the scUM game, they knew after that they did not have a championship caliber defense.  And we all knew it too.  We all thought we would just out-score MSU.  Now we know.  In the age of high powered offenses and scoring out the wazoo, you still have to have some kind of competent defense that can make a few stops.

That is the context for this season.  If we see a defense that has a pulse, we will have CFB Playoff fairies dancing in our heads.  If we see bubble screens going for 80, I will need to watch the games with a trash can handy.

+1 HS
Ahh Saturday's picture

 "I ain’t eyeing it right now, I’m just taking it one game at a time, but when the time comes, I’m gonna be it eyeing it hard. Harder than ever."

Translation: I'm eyeing it right now. 

+2 HS
Son of Sevenless's picture

Dantonio looks like a Sith Lord in that picture.

buckskin's picture

I have never seen Dantonio smile like that. Bobby Carpenter said on 97.1 the fan that Dantonio wouldn't even smile at Carpenter's wedding. Whoever knew that Tressel ball would come back to bite us. They concern me the most even though they lost quite a few starters. Recently, Dantonio has MSU playing up for the big games.

Oh8ch's picture

Bit of trivia - OSU will play two road games this season at stadiums that are less than 30 miles apart.

+1 HS
Nutinpa's picture

A well written, nicely balanced article. 

Does anyone other than me remember when Tommy Tuberville was still at Auburn....and after the Debacle in the Desert....chimed in and said that "Ohio State probably would be a 5th place team in the SEC" ?  My only wish is that Jim Tressel could have gotten a measure of revenge on him for that, but I will accept it from Urban Meyer now.  They do have the athletes to make this an interesting game, no doubt.  

And you can argue with my analogy if you wish, but Dayton's victory over the OSU b-ball team in the NCAA tourney gave the underdogs more than hope when playing an Ohio State team. 

TURD_BUCKET's picture

I hope Braxton lights it up against Sparty. I'm still hurting from the 1974 game. And the 1998 game with a Nick Saban coached team. Two very good OSU squads, both ranked #1, but alas...And then there was last year. Don't overlook Coach Dantonio, remember where he is from.

We may need to start some sort of traditional pre-game hoopla for the Spartans.

And I'm old enough to never feel comfortable before THE GAME with those stinky varmints up north.

“Being average means you are as close to the bottom as you are to the top.” John Wooden

+1 HS