In 2019, Ohio State navigated one of the country's toughest regular season schedules unscathed — bulldozing the Big Ten with a 12-0 regular season that was capped by a come-from-behind win over Wisconsin in the conference title game.
It was a legendary run to the playoffs that head coach Ryan Day and the Buckeyes aim to repeat in 2020. And looking at the upcoming regular season schedule, Ohio State' path to college football's biggest stage is once again treacherous.
|September 5||Bowling Green||OSU 77, BG 10 (2016)|
|September 12||@ Oregon||OSU 42, OREG 20 (2015)|
|September 19||Buffalo||OSU 40, BUF 20 (2013)|
|September 26||Rutgers||OSU 56, RUT 21 (2019)|
|October 10||Iowa||OSU 24, IOWA 55 (2017)|
|October 17||@ Michigan State||OSU 34, MSU 10 (2019)|
|October 24||@ Penn State||OSU 28, PSU 17 (2019)|
|October 31||Nebraska||OSU 48, NEB 7 (2019)|
|November 7||Indiana||OSU 51, IND 10 (2019)|
|NOVEMBER 14||@ Maryland||OSU 73, MD 13 (2019)|
|NOVEMBER 21||@ Illinois||OSU 52, Ill 14 (2017)|
|NOVEMBER 28||Michigan||OSU 56, UM 27 (2019)|
Here are some first impressions of Ohio State's 2020 schedule.
The Nonconference Slate
As our own Andrew Ellis wrote last week, Day and Ohio State will hit the road for a true and marquee road game for the first time since 2016 when the Buckeyes travel to Eugene for a showdown with the Oregon Ducks.
Ohio State's scheduling strategy is to play one notable and challenging nonconference opponent each season, typically in a home-and-home fashion. The Buckeyes strayed from that trend the last two seasons as they hosted three non-conference home games in 2019, and in 2018, their marquee matchup was with TCU at a neutral site in Arlington, Texas.
You have to go back to the 2016 season for Ohio State's last true road test out of conference, when J.T. Barrett and a stingy defense led the Buckeyes to a dominant 45-24 win over Oklahoma.
Ohio State's matchup against Oregon is one of the headliners of Week 2, which will be an absolutely loaded Saturday of football with Texas vs. LSU, Oklahoma vs. Tennessee, Auburn vs. North Carolina and Penn State vs. Virginia Tech all on the docket.
The Buckeyes will face a Ducks team with a lot of experience defensively with the returns of cornerbacks Thomas Graham Jr. and Deommodore Lenoir and defensive tackles Jordon Scott and Austin Faoliu, all of whom spurned the NFL for another season in Eugene. The Ducks offense has to replace multi-year starter Justin Herbert at quarterback, though.
MAC opponents Bowling Green and Buffalo round out the nonconference slate.
The Conference Schedule
There are positives and negatives to Ohio State's league slate in 2020.
On the positive side, the Buckeyes don't have to face Wisconsin, which figures to once again contend for the West Division crown. Ohio State's cross-division draw is much more favorable compared to the last few years.
Another huge positive is the closing stretch. During the 2015-16 seasons, Ohio State had to face off against strong Michigan State teams the week before the season ending showdown with Michigan. And last fall, the Buckeyes faced a similarly stiff test when they hosted No. 8 Penn State a week before traveling to Ann Arbor.
This year's entire November slate looks much more manageable, as the Buckeyes drew Indiana, Maryland and Illinois in the lead up to the final week of the season against the Wolverines.
The most challenging stretch on the schedule comes in October.
The Buckeyes open the month on a well-timed bye week, then have two non-divisional matchups sandwiching two key divisional road games.
The last time Ohio State faced off against Iowa was in 2017, and Urban Meyer's squad left Kinnick Stadium on the losing side of a historic 55-24 trashing. This year's matchup will take place in Ohio Stadium, however.
The Buckeyes hit the road the next two weeks with back-to-back games at Michigan State and Penn State. The showdown with the Nittany Lions will almost certainly be of the "White Out" variety, although the Big Ten's contract with FOX and their desire to showcase the league's top games in the noon time slot may save the Buckeyes from playing under the lights in Happy Valley.
After Penn State, Ohio State comes home to face Nebraska.
On first impression, the Buckeyes certainly face a challenging schedule in 2020, but the slate they ran through unscathed in 2019 looks more challenging on paper.