2014 Season Preview: Know Your Enemies

By Patrick Maks on August 14, 2014 at 8:15 am
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. 


  • 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. 


  • 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. 


  • 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. 


  • 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. 


  • 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." 


  • 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. 


  • 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. 


  • 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. 
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