Written by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)
Edited by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)
For those of you that don’t know, Ohio State’s football season is less than 100 days away. They officially kick off against the Buffalo Bulls on August 31 at Ohio Stadium. Some experts are already placing the Buckeyes in the National Title Game against Alabama. If one takes a close look at this year’s schedule, it’s easy to see why the experts feel this way…we have an easy schedule.
As a fan, I tend to take a cautious look at things in an attempt to keep my hopes down. Years spent as a Cubs fan tell me that nothing that is predicted to be good is certain. But this year, even I can’t remain a calm fan! That said, here is the schedule for this year:
August 31 – Buffalo Bulls - TBA
September 7 – San Diego State Aztecs - TBA
September 14 - @ California Golden Bears – 7:00 PM ET
September 21 – Florida A&M Rattlers - TBA
September 28 – Wisconsin Badgers – 8:00 PM
October 5 - @ Northwestern Wildcats – 8:00 PM
October 12 – No Game
October 19 – Iowa Hawkeyes – 3:30 PM
October 26 – Penn State Nittany Lions – 8:00 PM
November 2 - @ Purdue Boilermakers - TBA
November 9 – No Game
November 16 - @ Illinois Fighting Illini - TBA
November 23 – Indiana Hoosiers - TBA
November 30 - @ Michigan Wolverines – TBA (really? We all know this will be noon)
December 7 – Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis – TBA
Okay, like I said, when looking at this schedule it’s easy to make the case that the Buckeyes will win every game. I will go ahead and predict that the Buckeyes will finish the regular season 12-0. At that point, we need to find out who Ohio State will play for the conference championship game. The short list of potential opponents includes: Nebraska, Michigan…and maybe Northwestern…if hell freezes over. Now, let’s hold that thought and look at the regular season.
Ohio State should pretty much coast through the first four games. Even though they should coast, they need to focus on blowing these teams out. This schedule is weak, and style points will be everything. Even though last year was special, we can’t have close games this year. If we win by a field goal against Cal, we can forget playing in the National Title Game.
We open up conference play under the lights against Wisconsin, which should be a fairly easy game since Russell Wilson is long gone. Not that the Badgers will be a slouch, but the rivalry is not what it once was for a reason…they aren’t as good as they once were.
Honestly, I think the first test of the season will come on the road against Northwestern. I know, this sounds weird, but this program has come a long way lately under Pat Fitzgerald. For heaven’s sweet sake, they won ten games last year! That’s not an easy task last time I checked. I’m not saying that we will get blown out by any stretch, but look for the Wildcats to be to this year’s team what Purdue was to last year’s team…a massive stroke waiting to happen.
After a bye week, the Buckeyes host Iowa and Penn State before taking the road to face Purdue, none of which will provide much of a challenge this year. The focus during these weeks is to not look ahead, keep refining their high power offense, and keep blowing teams out. If the Purdue game is close, forget the shot at the National Title Game. After these three games, the Buckeyes get another week off to prepare for the home stretch.
The final three games of the regular season include Illinois on the road, Indiana at home, and Michigan on the road. While the first two games shouldn’t pose much of a challenge, the Michigan game always promises to be a wild ride. I think that the Michigan game is the only game we can afford to win by a close margin, only because this game has a history of being a flat out nasty test of football.
Now, let us return to the conference championship game. If the Buckeyes play Nebraska, it’s a win for sure as the Cornhuskers are a shell of themselves this year. If the Buckeyes play Northwestern, I think they should handle that rematch without any problem. Northwestern will need to win every other game they play to make it to the conference championship game, so like I said, the chances are slim that they get there.
Now the interesting option…what if Ohio State plays Michigan again? It very well could happen, and it’s probably the most likely of all the matchups. I like to think that we will beat the Wolverines two weeks in a row, but I have my honest doubts. I believe it will be a battle of attrition since the games are always so physical when these teams meet. Ultimately, I’m predicting a win.
If all things go right, THE Ohio State Buckeyes will finish the season 13-0 and be poised to compete for a National Title, and nothing will keep them on the outside looking in. That said, this variable could keep Ohio State out of the title game despite going undefeated: too many close games combined with other undefeated teams (a variable which I call the SEC BS Constant). Basically, if we beat Cal by a field goal, squeeze by Northwestern, and maybe play a close game with Nebraska at Lucas Oil Stadium, expect the Buckeyes to be left out in favor of another prominent undefeated or one-loss school (say Texas, Stanford, or Texas A&M).
However, I’m counting on all things to go right. As a fan, I can’t stomach the thought of OSU being left out after winning 25 games in a row (this year and last year combined…for you kids scoring at home)! So let’s buckle down and get it done!