Ohio State's Easy Road Slate Will Help Ryan Day and Justin Fields Find Their Bearings

By David Regimbal on July 15, 2019 at 2:45 pm
J.K. Dobbins

Ohio State hasn't lost to a team it plays on the road this year since 2011.

That season itself was an outlier, and one you may have blocked out as a defense mechanism. It was the year Luke Fickell served as a bridge gap between the Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer eras at Ohio State, in which the Buckeyes posted a losing record for the first time in nearly two-and-a-half decades.

Miami, Michigan State and Nebraska handed Ohio State a trio of Ls before the Buckeyes finished the season on a four-game losing streak to Purdue, Penn State, Michigan and Florida in something called the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl.

That ultimately led to the hiring of Meyer, who put together a dominant run, losing just nine total games in seven seasons with the Buckeyes.

And Ohio State won't have to visit any of the teams responsible for those nine defeats this fall. 

The Buckeyes road schedule is as follows:

Date Opponent
Sep. 14 Indiana
Sep. 28 Nebraska
Oct. 18 Northwestern
Nov. 16 Rutgers
Nov. 30 Michigan

Indiana and Rutgers look like gimmes on paper. Nebraska and Northwestern will be tough outs, but the former is known for its polite atmosphere and the latter commonly opens its gates for visiting fans more so than their own.

The stiffest test comes on the final week of the regular season, when Ohio State makes the three hour trip north to Ann Arbor for its showdown with Michigan.

But by then, the Buckeyes' new head coach and quarterback will have cut their teeth in road environments that aren't as overwhelming as others.

Last year, Ohio State had tough games at Penn State (in primetime) and in the frigid confines of Spartan Stadium against Michigan State. The year before, they visited Iowa in a game that finished under the lights in November before traveling to Michigan.  And in 2016, they had a brutal road slate that included Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan State.

The benefit of such a forgiving road schedule can't be overstated. 

The Buckeyes have veterans throughout a majority of their depth chart, but they're relatively young in a number of key areas. Ohio State doesn't have the benefit of leaning on an experienced signal-caller like J.T. Barrett or the luxury of a returning starter in Dwayne Haskins. 

The offense is turning the keys over to Justin Fields, a Georgia transfer who entered the program just six months ago. Learning the playbook and acclimating himself to the offense is a stiff hill to climb, and it'd be even tougher if he had a tough trip to make this year, particularly early in the season.

Combine that with the turnover Ohio State experienced along its offensive line and things get dicier. The Buckeyes need four new starters up front, and while there are upperclassmen sprinkled throughout, it takes time for the unit to come together. That, too, would be much more difficult in a truly hostile environment.

Throw in first-time head coach Ryan Day at the helm, and it looks like the Buckeyes caught a break from the scheduling gods, at least when it comes to road matchups.

Make no mistake, Ohio State will face its challenges when it travels this fall. The Buckeyes have dropped inexplicable games to Purdue and Iowa in recent years, and a number of experts have that Nebraska game circled as a potential trap.

But looking at the schedules of years past, the Buckeyes have a more forgiving path this fall when they hit the road.  

That is, until that regular season finale.

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