The Road to Indianapolis: Conference Games Outside Columbus Loom Large

By Michael Citro on April 3, 2014 at 1:15p

Despite overhauling its defense, offensive line and wide receivers, as well as losing stud running back Carlos Hyde to graduation, Ohio State is expected to challenge for the inaugural Big Ten East Division title in 2014.

If the Buckeyes are going to finish at the top of a very competitive division — which includes arch rival Michigan, defending league champs Michigan State and traditional power Penn State — they will have to survive the four conference road games this fall.

In the past, Ohio State’s road to the B1G championship consisted of not stumbling against the “little eight” and then beating the Maize Sun & Blue.  Starting this fall, the road will be tougher than it’s ever been. In addition to having to beat the Wolverines, there are land mines throughout the schedule to navigate, but those away from the Horseshoe are especially dangerous.

Herein, we’ll take a look at the four roadies that may determine whether or not Ohio State ends up in Indianapolis at the end of the regular season.

These games take on added importance when you consider the Buckeyes suffered two losses away from home last year (both at neutral sites) and the team's average scoring margin outside of the horseshoe was +13.6 points — the average margin in home games was +32.1 points.

That road margin dips considerably when you toss out the 56-0 win at horrible Purdue and factor in a slop touchdown on the last play against Northwestern.

Let’s go road trippin’.

At Maryland — Oct. 4

The Buckeyes open the B1G schedule on the road at Byrd Stadium, visiting new conference and division foe Maryland. The Terrapins are coming off a 7-6 season that ended with a 31-20 dropkicking at the hands (feet?) of a surprisingly good Marshall squad in the Military Bowl. The Terps, not a terribly deep team, dealt with some injury issues along the way.

Maryland was 4-3 at home, including a 37-0 clubbing of West Virginia. But Randy Edsall’s Terps won’t be favored against the Buckeyes unless many unforeseen things happen between now and then. Ohio State should be able to get out of College Park with a victory, but this will be a huge game for Maryland and Byrd Stadium will be an unfamiliar environment. It will be important for the Buckeyes to jump on the Terps early and not give them or their fans any reason for hope.

At Penn State – Oct. 25

Ohio State visits Beaver Stadium to face James Franklin as head coach of the Nittany Lions for the first time. The Nitts were 5-2 at home last year in a 7-5 overall season (1-0 at neutral sites and 1-3 on the road), and one of those losses came in overtime (as did two of the wins). The lesson here is that Happy Valley is always a tough place to play.

Braxton must play well on the road in 2014.
Brax and the Bucks must play well on the road.

Quarterback Christian Hackenberg has a year of college football under his belt and the Nittany Lions will be energized by Franklin. The Buckeyes have had some bad trips to Penn State in the past and this game very well could be the first major challenge of the season, depending on how the Virginia Tech game goes in early September. Urban Meyer must have his squad ready to play because a stumble here could derail the drive to Indy.

At Michigan State – Nov. 8

If all goes according to plan, the trip to East Lansing should decide the Eastern Division. Sparty is the defending league champ, courtesy of their win over the Buckeyes at Lucas Oil Stadium in a game that still to this day begs for more Carlos Hyde and fewer defensive lapses.

Michigan State was a perfect 7-0 at Spartan Stadium a year ago, despite having a fairly soft home schedule — its best home wins were against Michigan and Minnesota. Much will be written about this game between now and early November, but the short version is that this game is probably going to determine who goes to Indianapolis to face the B1G West Division champs.

At Minnesota – Nov. 15

The Golden Gophers went 5-2 at home last season and were surprisingly strong under Jerry Kill. Their victims at TCF Bank Stadium included the No. 24 Nebraska Cornhuskers and Penn State. The losses came to Iowa and Wisconsin. Minnesota was a tough out last year, especially at home. Their season resulted in a Texas Bowl appearance against Syracuse, where the Gophers fell, 21-17.

This will be Ohio State’s second consecutive road game and it very well may fall in the wake of a very emotional contest at Spartan Stadium. Even if the Buckeyes escape Sparta with a victory, they can’t have a letdown a week later against Kill’s Gophers. This game could be the second toughest of the conference season. If Kill’s rebuilding of Minnesota’s program stays on track, this could be a low-scoring defensive struggle.

When the season is over, these are the four games that may stand alongside The Game as the signposts of the 2014 Big Ten season. The Buckeyes will probably need all of them to advance to Indianapolis. If they slip anywhere, it can’t be at East Lansing because they may need the head-to-head tiebreaker.


Comments Show All Comments

sgehrich's picture

The only one that makes me nervous is MSU. But we should be very motivated. I see 4-0 in these roadies. 

+1 HS
Waltbuck's picture

We should be very motivated for EVERY game.  But I do agree 4-0.

TMac's picture

November 8th is the test! The other three should not be overly competetive. 

ONE Not Done!

-1 HS
Mortc15's picture

The Penn St game has me really nervous. There are so many motivators in play. Former coach coming back to coach against them. Franklin wanting to prove he can compete with Meyer and 1 of the Big Ten's top 2 teams. Add in the time Hack has had behind center from last year and next year up to that point and it gives me reason to be cautiously optimistic that OSU will handle their business in Happy Valley.

I don't expect OSU to lose this game, but I think PSU can keep within a score or two, unlike last year's game.


+4 HS
Zimmy07's picture

I'm surprised to see so many counting At PSU as an easy win.  Their QB is top notch.

+4 HS
I_Run_The_Dave's picture

I wouldn't be surprised if he fails to meet expectations without the tutelage of Bill O'Brien this fall.  Still, @PSU will be tough.

Knarcisi's picture

A score or six would be unlike last year's game. 

OSUpawn's picture

I think the first road game is easy.  The next two will be close.  We need both sides of the ball to win those games.  Now, once we beat MSU I hope we can get back to focusing the following week for Min. 

Maize Sun & Blue

I think you meant to say "Sun & Blew"

I believe the SEC players put their pants on one leg at a time like we do.

+2 HS
Buckeye1004's picture

It may be crazy, but November 15 @ Minnesota scares me the most.  I know the 8th against the spartans will be tough, but November 15, that scares the crap out of me.  I think Urban will have us ready for the other 3, all 4 actually, but it's that week after what is shaping up to be the biggest game of the season, outside of The Game of course.  Kill probably already has this game circled on his calendar.  Rebuilding a team, the Best team in the conference coming to town the week after their biggest test.  Looking for something to get them over the hump.  I could go on but probably don't really need to.   This game sticks out as the most dangerous of the 4, especially if we come in undefeated after a huge win.

+3 HS
Colerain 2004 G.O.A.T.'s picture

You are absolutely right and this is a classic trap game. No matter if we lose a close one or win big in East Lansing we will be physically and emotionally drained the week after. Not sure who and what Minnesota returns but Im thinking its enough to give us a real challenge in that scenario. Thats the week we will either further solidify our dominance or lose back to back games for consecutive weeks 2 seasons in a row. People easily get confused how hard it is to win a road game when they see a 56-0 drubbing of Purdue a historically tough out for our Bucks. We will get to see exactly what our team is made of the very first week when we travel to play Navy. Maryland can be another very dangerous road team as they absolutely gang raped a dangerous but not elite WVU team last year. Love the line about land mines because that is exactly what they all are even the Cincy game will have a solid story line and emotions will run deep.

I speak the truth but I guess that's a foreign language to yall.~~Lil Wayne

allinosu's picture

I will feel a lot better about all of them when I see our defense become what we know it can be and dominate. I think most everything for us hinges on that.

chili96's picture

Does anyone know who replaced coach Johnson at PSU? Will be interesting to see how their D line plays.

Zimmy07's picture

I looked it up & Franklin brought Sean Spencer with him from Vandy.  Spencer seems to be a quality Dline coach from the write up I read.

2011-13 - Vanderbilt (defensive line)
2009-10 - Bowling Green (defensive line)
2007-08 - University of Massachusetts (defensive line, special teams coordinator)
2006 - Hofstra (defensive line)
2005 - Villanova (linebackers)
2004 - College of Holy Cross (defensive line)
2001-03 - University of Massachusetts (defensive line)
1998-2000 - Trinity College (running backs, passing game coordinator, defensive line)
1996-97 - Shippensburg University (running backs)

lsjSnail's picture

Off-topic a little, but OSU's away jerseys are fucking sick.

Kingbuck12's picture

The only thing that makes me nervous is if we are down in those trap games and we have to rely on our passing game. New line. New backs. And i hate to say this, but same play caller and same QB. Im going to get a million down votes but this is all true. GO BUCKS.!!!


ScarletNGrey01's picture

If Braxton takes that next big step we are all hoping he will, and is capable of, the bucks will be tough to beat.

The will to win is not as important as the will to prepare to win. -- Woody Hayes

Go1Bucks's picture

Correction: Puke and Blew.


Your welcome.


Go Bucks!

Go Bucks!

DC-town's picture

Penn St is always scary- last time we were in happy valley was a very close win, might not officially be a 'rivalry' but it does play like one-  

Meyer will have this game circled as a show-me game

'Piss excellence' -RB

woodcocklives@osu's picture

Man...this schedule a real test!

-1 HS