Ohio State's 2016 Schedule, Ranked

By Tim Shoemaker on June 9, 2016 at 2:15 pm
Ohio Stadium from above.

On Monday, Ohio State announced its fall camp — the fifth under head coach Urban Meyer in Columbus — will begin Sunday, Aug. 7. It is then when the Buckeyes begin their quest to get back to the Big Ten championship game despite massive turnover on the roster.

After fall camp concludes, Ohio State begins its season Sept. 3 against Bowling Green at Ohio Stadium. That will be the start of what’s a very difficult 2016 schedule including road tilts against Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan State.

If the Buckeyes are to advance to Indianapolis to play for the Big Ten title, they’re going to have to earn it.

With that said, let's rank Ohio State's schedule from its least-difficult game to the most difficult. This list is based on opponent, location and any other factor you can think of that makes a game challenging:

12. Tulsa — Sept. 10 — Ohio Stadium

The Golden Hurricane come to Columbus during the second week of the season and, although it was just 6-7 a year ago, Tulsa possessed one of college football’s most potent offenses averaging 507.4 yards per game — 13th in the country.

Still, the Golden Hurricane shouldn’t be much of an issue for an inexperienced Ohio State defense as the Buckeyes should roll — granted they aren’t looking ahead to the following week when a trip to Oklahoma is looming.

11. Bowling Green — Sept. 3 — Ohio Stadium

Consistently one of the Mid-American Conference’s top teams, the Falcons come to Ohio Stadium for the season-opener. But after an offseason coaching change, there are a few questions surrounding Bowling Green heading into 2016.

The Falcons are an interesting opening matchup for Ohio State, but at the end of the day, the Buckeyes’ talent should provide them with an overwhelming edge.

10. At Maryland — Nov. 12 — Byrd Stadium

Maryland will almost surely be better in 2016 — it was just 3-9 last season, after all — and the Terps will likely receive a boost from their new coach — former Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin — but there’s still a long way to go.

The game may be a little tricky since it’s on the road and it’s likely to be an early start, but Ohio State dealt with that fairly easily back in 2014 — its first trip to College Park, Maryland.

9. Rutgers — Oct. 1 — Ohio Stadium

Maryland and Rutgers could have easily been flip-flopped considering the game against the Scarlet Knights is in Columbus and that obviously works in Ohio State’s favor, but I give Rutgers the slight edge as the better team in 2016 as things stand right now, though that might not be saying much.

Chris Ash’s return to Ohio Stadium won’t pose much of a threat to his former team — at least not this season — as the Buckeyes should cruise.

8. Indiana — Oct. 8 — Ohio Stadium

The Hoosiers gave Ohio State quite the scare a season ago as they had a chance to win the game on their final drive. But the Buckeyes got a defensive stand and saved what would have been a stunning upset.

This year’s game is in Columbus, however, and even though Indiana is expected to put up points despite losing quarterback Nate Sudfeld and running back Jordan Howard, the Buckeyes should win comfortably at home.

7. Nebraska — Nov. 5 — Ohio Stadium

This is where things on our list start to get interesting for Ohio State as Nebraska comes to town for a primetime matchup on Nov. 5.

After a disappointing 6-7 season in Mike Riley’s first year, the Huskers are expected to take a step forward in 2016. Nebraska is projected as preseason No. 26 in the S&P+ ratings and also [somehow] returns its starting quarterback, Tommy Armstrong Jr.

The last time these two teams met was 2012, a game won 63-38 by the Buckeyes.

6. Northwestern — Oct. 29 — Ohio Stadium

The Wildcats won 10 games in 2015 under Pat Fitzgerald and return 58 percent of their total production, according to SB Nation’s Bill Connelly.

Northwestern returns quarterback Clayton Thorson and running back Justin Jackson and the strong duo will lead the Wildcats to Ohio Stadium for the first time since 2007. At home, this is a game Ohio State should win. Plus, the Buckeyes haven’t lost to Northwestern since 2004.

5. At Penn State — Oct. 22 — Beaver Stadium

The five most difficult games on Ohio State’s schedule are no joke and we’ll kick off the top five with a trip to Happy Valley, which was almost a nightmare for the Buckeyes in 2014 as Ohio State blew a 17-point lead at halftime before rallying to win in double-overtime.

The Buckeyes actually have a pretty good track record of success playing night games at Penn State in recent years, but that doesn’t make this one any easier. Ohio State probably has the better team, but weird things happen under the lights at Beaver Stadium.

4. At Wisconsin — Oct. 15 — Camp Randall Stadium

The week prior to that trip to Happy Valley, Ohio State will travel to another hostile Big Ten stadium when it faces Wisconsin under the lights at Camp Randall. Back-to-back road games against the Nittany Lions and Badgers is a brutal October stretch for the Buckeyes.

Wisconsin was 10-3 a year ago but enters 2016 with a big question mark at quarterback. The Badgers will rely heavily on running back Corey Clement, who missed most of the 2015 season due to injury.

Wisconsin hasn’t defeated Ohio State since 2010 and the Buckeyes won the last time these two teams played — a 59-0 victory in the 2014 Big Ten championship game. Ohio State’s last trip to Madison was in 2012, a game the Buckeyes won 21-14.

3. At Michigan State — Nov. 19 — Spartan Stadium

In what’s become the unofficial Big Ten Game of the Year in recent seasons, Ohio State will look for revenge against Michigan State this season on Nov. 19 in East Lansing. The Spartans, as you’re well aware, ruined any shot of the Buckeyes making a return trip to the College Football Playoff a year ago with a stunning 17-14 upset at Ohio Stadium without starting quarterback Connor Cook.

Both teams lost quite a bit of talent from last year’s teams, but that doesn’t change the magnitude of this one. Michigan State is the only Big Ten team with a victory over Ohio State in the Meyer era — and the Spartans have a pair of them. The teams have alternated wins in their last six meetings.

2. Michigan — Nov. 26 — Ohio Stadium

There is already talk of this one going — though that happens every year — as Michigan enters 2016 as the favorite by many to win the Big Ten. The Buckeyes blasted the Wolverines in Ann Arbor last season in the first matchup between Meyer and Jim Harbaugh and the rematch will take place in late November this time at Ohio Stadium.

Michigan has most of its talent returning, however — the big reason why it is viewed as a Big Ten favorite — while Ohio State must figure out how to replace 16 starters from last year’s team.

I'm sure we'll talk about the Michigan game once or twice more before it arrives.

1. At Oklahoma — Sept. 17 — Memorial Stadium

It's early in the season, it's on the road and Ohio State has a young and inexperienced team. All of these things make the Week 3 matchup against Oklahoma the most difficult on the Buckeyes' schedule this year.

The Sooners are coming off a College Football Playoff appearance and return a bevy of talent including star quarterback Baker Mayfield. Meanwhile, Ohio State is going through some massive turnover on its roster and this game is especially scary because it's so early in the season.

The Buckeyes will be underdogs on the road that night in mid-September, and Meyer's track record in Columbus in such situations is strong, but this will be, without question, Ohio State's most challenging game of 2016.

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