If Ohio State is going to make it back to the Big Ten Championship Game and the College Football Playoff, it’s going to have to win plenty of challenging games along the way.
An updated 2022 football schedule was released by the Big Ten on Wednesday, and the changes appear to be mostly favorable to the Buckeyes. Most notably, Ohio State will no longer have to make back-to-back road trips to Michigan State and Penn State, as the Buckeyes’ game against the Spartans was moved back to Oct. 8 while the clash with the Nittany Lions will now be played on Oct. 29.
|SAT, SEP. 3||NOTRE DAME||NOTRE DAME|
|SAT, SEP. 10||ARKANSAS STATE||ARKANSAS STATE|
|SAT, SEP. 17||TOLEDO||TOLEDO|
|SAT, SEP. 24||WISCONSIN||at MICHIGAN STATE|
|SAT, OCT. 1||RUTGERS||at PENN STATE|
|SAT, OCT. 8||at MICHIGAN STATE||RUTGERS|
|SAT, OCT. 15||OFF||IOWA|
|SAT, OCT. 22||IOWA||OFF|
|SAT, OCT. 29||at PENN STATE||INDIANA|
|SAT, NOV. 5||at NORTHWESTERN||at NORTHWESTERN|
|SAT. NOV. 12||INDIANA||WISCONSIN|
|SAT, NOV. 19||at MARYLAND||at MARYLAND|
|SAT, NOV. 26||MICHIGAN||MICHIGAN|
That said, Ohio State will still be playing all of the same opponents it was scheduled to play before Wednesday’s update, and that leaves plenty of potential tests in the Buckeyes’ path, including a season opener against a likely preseason top-10 team in Notre Dame, a full slate of Big Ten East opponents and games against what could be the two best teams in the Big Ten West.
Now that Ohio State’s actual schedule for the 2022 season has been finalized, it’s time to take a closer look at where the new schedule could be advantageous to the Buckeyes and where potential pitfalls to Ohio State’s championship hopes could lie.
Home sweet home
The first thing that jumps off the screen when looking at Ohio State’s new schedule is the five-game homestand the Buckeyes will start their season with. It will be the first time since 2003 that Ohio State has opened its season by playing five home games in a row.
It will be the first time since 2012 that Ohio State will play eight home games at Ohio Stadium in a single season, giving the Buckeyes the advantage of only having to play four road games this year. (Conversely, Ohio State will play six home games and six road games in 2023).
If Ohio State had the opportunity to craft an ideal schedule for itself, it would probably choose to play one of its road games in September rather than having to play four of its final seven games on the road. The Buckeyes will go untested on the road until they play Michigan State on Oct. 8, and they’ll have to play three road games in a four-week span when they play Penn State on Oct. 29, Northwestern on Nov. 5 and Maryland on Nov. 19.
Given that they’ll be breaking in the new turf at Ohio Stadium by playing a full two-thirds of their games in front of their home crowd, though, the Buckeyes are in no position to complain.
Big games throughout the schedule
For Ohio State fans, the best part of the 2022 schedule might be the fact that there will be big games to look forward to at every point in the schedule.
The Sept. 3 season opener against Notre Dame will be circled on calendars throughout Buckeye Nation. The Big Ten schedule will start with a highly anticipated game as the Buckeyes will host Wisconsin on Sept. 24. Early October will bring a clash of two teams that finished this past season in the top 10 as Ohio State travels to Michigan State. Ohio State playing Penn State just before Halloween is beginning to feel like tradition, as the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions will play on the last weekend of October for the third year in a row. And of course, everyone will be looking forward to The Game on Nov. 26, when Michigan will play at Ohio Stadium for the first time in four years.
Spreading those games out over the course of the season should be beneficial to the Buckeyes, too, as there’s no single stretch on the schedule that looks murderous. However, that also means there won’t be any extended stretch of easy wins for the Buckeyes, which means they’ll need to be playing at a high level at the beginning, middle and end of the season.
After playing Nebraska in each of the last six seasons, Ohio State will play Wisconsin in its protected crossover game for the next four seasons, which will present a step up in interdivisional competition. While Nebraska finished with a losing record in the last five of those six seasons, Wisconsin has finished with a winning record in all of its last 20 seasons, and the Badgers usually play the Buckeyes tough – though Ohio State has won the last eight meetings.
Ohio State will also host the reigning Big Ten West champions in 2022 as Iowa will come to Columbus on Oct. 22. The Hawkeyes beat the Buckeyes in their last meeting in 2017, and both the Hawkeyes and Badgers are included in most early top-25 projections, so there’s a good chance Ohio State will end up playing the two best teams in the West division.
If recent trends are any indication, Northwestern could also be a sleeper to watch in the West. The Wildcats have alternated between making the Big Ten Championship Game and finishing 3-9 for each of the past four years, so they shouldn’t be written off despite a down year in 2021, and the Buckeyes will have to play them in the second leg of their lone back-to-back road sequence of the year.
A well-timed bye week? Maybe
For the second year in a row, Ohio State’s only off week of the regular season will come smack dab in the middle of the schedule, as the Buckeyes will play six games before their bye week and six more regular-season games after.
On paper, that should be a great time to have a week off, as it splits the season into two halves and gives the Buckeyes an opportunity to rest, regroup and get healthy in between. It also breaks up what looks like the most daunting stretch of the season, as the Buckeyes are set to play Michigan State, Iowa and Penn State in three consecutive games.
That said, it sets the Buckeyes up for another second-half gauntlet like this past season as they’ll have to play six Big Ten games in six weeks, which would become seven conference contests in seven weeks if they make the Big Ten Championship Game. Ohio State would have perhaps been better suited by having its bye one week later – when it was originally supposed to be – as that would have given the Buckeyes an extra week to prepare for their road trip to Penn State, which will now be sandwiched by the Iowa and Northwestern games.
Don’t fall into a November trap
Once the Ohio State/Penn State game is in the books and the calendar turns to November, anticipation for The Game will build quickly. If there’s ever been a year where Ohio State will be tempted to start looking ahead to Michigan early, it will be this one, as the Buckeyes will be hungry to avenge last year’s loss in Ann Arbor.
The schedule leading up to The Game looks easier than last year, when the Buckeyes played Michigan State one week before Michigan, and in 2019, when the Buckeyes played Penn State in their penultimate game of the regular season.
But that’s where the threat of a trap game could come in.
Northwestern played Ohio State tough in their last meeting in the 2020 Big Ten Championship Game, and the Buckeyes will need to be on guard against a post-Penn State letdown. Indiana lost all the momentum it had at this time a year ago with a 2-10 season in 2021, but the Hoosiers did give the Buckeyes a scare in Ohio Stadium two years ago. Maryland projects to have the Big Ten’s second-best passing offense with Taulia Tagovailoa throwing to Rakim Jarrett, Dontay Demus and Jacob Copeland, and the Terrapins took Ohio State to overtime the last time they hosted the Buckeyes in 2018, when Ohio State traveled to Maryland just one week before playing Michigan like it will this year.
On paper, those should be three of the four easiest conference games of the season for Ohio State, along with its Oct. 1 game against Rutgers. But they’re still not games the Buckeyes can afford to completely overlook.