When a schedule gets released, certain games are automatically circled.
For Ohio State, in 2017, just about everyone has the same three marked on their calendars: Sept. 9 vs. Oklahoma, Oct. 28 vs. Penn State and Nov. 25 at Michigan.
The Week 2 matchup against the Sooners is one of college football's marquee non-conference showdowns. Ohio State routed Oklahoma a year ago in Norman; the Sooners will surely be looking for revenge in this top-10 matchup.
The game against Penn State figures to be the key contest in the Big Ten this season. The Buckeyes were stunned a year ago in Happy Valley; this time around the game is in Columbus.
The late-November showdown against Michigan is circled because, well, you know why.
There are a pair of other games on Ohio State's schedule — one in mid-October, the other in early-November — that won't necessarily grab preseason headlines, but perhaps should. The Buckeyes travel to both Nebraska and Iowa around that matchup against Penn State and Ohio State fans should be wary about those two matchups.
For one, both Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City and Memorial Stadium in Lincoln are two of the more difficult places to play in the Big Ten. And though it has been some time since the Buckeyes played at either venue, their last trips to each weren't exactly pleasant.
Ohio State last played at Nebraska during its miserable 2011 season and, in a lot of ways, that night in Lincoln summarized the Buckeyes' season. Ohio State held a 27-6 lead in the third quarter before the Huskers rallied to score 28 unanswered points for the 34-27 victory.
The Buckeyes last played in Iowa City back in 2010 and it took a 1-yard touchdown run by Dan Herron with under two minutes to play that lifted Ohio State to a 20-17 victory.
Those games mean nothing now as both teams are much different, but they just help illustrate the point: Weird things tend to happen under the lights — we're assuming both will be night games since anytime Ohio State comes to town it seems to happen — happen at both Kinnick Stadium and Memorial Stadium. Just ask Michigan, which entered last year's game at Iowa with a 9-0 record and left with a loss after a last-second field goal. The Hawkeyes entered that game just 5-4 on the year.
Under Urban Meyer, Ohio State has lost exactly one true road game in five seasons. That came last year in Happy Valley when the Buckeyes were stunned, 24-21. So, Meyer's track record is pretty good in these things.
But that doesn't mean the mid-October matchup against Nebraska will be easy or the early-November tilt in Iowa City will be a cakewalk. Ohio State, despite a massive talent advantage on paper, will need to be ready for those two somewhat under-the-radar games. And realistically, they probably will be as Meyer is one of the sport's best at getting his team prepared.
But when you're glancing down the Buckeyes' schedule this offseason and circling games on your calendar, make sure you don't skip over those two matchups against the Huskers and Hawkeyes. They may not be as easy as they seem.