Ranking Ohio State's 5 Toughest Matchups for the 2019 Football Season

By David Regimbal on March 11, 2019 at 2:45 pm
Chase Young

Eleven Warriors

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Deceivingly tough.

Ohio State's 2019 Football Schedule
Date Opponent
8/31 Florida Atlantic
9/7 Cincinnati
9/14 @ Indiana
9/21 Miami (OH)
9/28 @ Nebraska
10/5 Michigan State
10/18 @ Northwestern
10/26 Wisconsin
11/9 Maryland
11/16 @ Rutgers
11/23 Penn State
11/30 @ Michigan

That's how one could describe Ohio State's upcoming football schedule.

The Buckeyes don't have a marquee nonconference matchup like they do in most seasons. After taking on the likes of Texas, USC, Miami, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma and TCU in recent years, Ohio State's big non-league opponent is a Week 2 matchup against the Luke Fickell-led Cincinnati Bearcats.

That's a good break for Ryan Day, the new head coach in his first season at the helm of a football program. It'll get tougher in 2020 and beyond, with matchups against Oregon, Notre Dame, Washington and Texas on future schedules.

But even without a titanic early clash, there are some tough games for the Buckeyes this fall, highlighted by three league road trips.

Here's a breakdown of Ohio State's five toughest matchups for the 2019 regular season:

5. @ Nebraska

This certainly isn't the biggest matchup on paper after Nebraska went just 4-8 in Scott Frost's first season as head coach. The Cornhuskers were absolutely crippled by deflections and injuries, but the team found their bearings after an 0-6 start to win four of their last six, which included a near upset of Ohio State in Columbus last November.

Michigan State nearly got the nod here, but these tired eyes haven't forgotten what the Spartans made us watch for nearly three hours last fall in a 26-6 snoozer in East Lansing (fun fact: Michigan State averaged just 12.2 points per game in their final seven games of the 2019 season). 

The Cornhuskers, on the other hand, should be much more cohesive in Frost's second year, and this will almost certainly be a night game in Lincoln, Nebraska. Visions of Iowa/Purdue take three are easy to imagine.

4. @ Northwestern

The last time Ohio State visited Northwestern under the lights, the Buckeyes needed to rally in the fourth quarter to secure a closer-than-it-looked 40-30 victory.

When Ohio State comes calling in Week 6, it'll have fresh legs following a bye-week. But the Wildcats will be looking to avenge the 45-24 loss to the Buckeyes in last December's Big Ten title game, and there's bound to be dozens of Northwestern fans in attendance to make things a little more difficult as well.

And expect for the grass to be about nine inches long that night as well. 

3. Wisconsin

The Buckeyes haven't seen Wisconsin in the regular season since 2016, but dating back to the 59-0 drubbing in the 2014 Big Ten title game that catapulted Ohio State to winning the first-ever College Football Playoff National Championship, this series has been remarkably close.

In 2016, the Buckeyes invaded Madison, Wisconsin and came away with a 30-23 overtime win. A year later in the Big Ten Championship Game, Ohio State raced out to a big lead before holding on for a 27-21 win.

The Buckeyes have won six straight against the Badgers, with their last loss coming in 2010. 

2. Penn State

The Ohio State - Penn State matchup has evolved into the most entertaining series in the Big Ten over the last few years.

The "rivalry" ramped up in the mid Aughts but Urban Meyer and James Franklin took it to another level during the last three matchups. In 2016, the Nittany Lions stunned the No. 2 Buckeyes by scoring the game's final 17 points in a 24-21 upset. Ohio State returned the favor, erasing 12- and 11-point leads with under six minutes to go in back-to-back seasons to seal gut-wrenching come-from-behind victories.

The series turns back to Columbus this year and will be particularly tough, as Ohio State is slated to take on Penn State the week before the Michigan game.

1. @ Michigan 

Last year's game felt like one Jim Harbaugh and Michigan absolutely had to win. The Wolverines were ranked fourth nationally, favored despite traveling to the unfriendly confines of Ohio Stadium, and on the doorstep of a College Football Playoff berth.

What ensued was a 62-39 demolition that wasn't even remotely that close. Day and the Buckeyes did whatever they wanted, piling up 567 total yards and the most points the team has ever scored against its top rival.

Shifting to next season, Ohio State returns a lot of talent and Michigan needs to replace a number of defensive stars. This game will take place in Ann Arbor, and Harbaugh will be under an enormous amount of pressure to win his first game against Ohio State in five tries. 

If he can't get this one against the Buckeyes and their new head coach, his seat could warm up pretty quickly. 

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