Another undefeated regular season will be no easy undertaking for Ohio State.
While Ryan Day was fond of compartmentalizing his first schedule as coach of the Buckeyes, this one is a little harder to put into groups of games.
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Here are six things to know about the 2020 schedule:
1. It starts out with a cupcake.
Bowling Green-Ohio State could be an epic mismatch even by usual Big Ten-MAC standards.
The Falcons were one of the worst teams in college football in 2019, finishing 3-9 overall with wins over Morgan State, Toledo and Akron in the first season Scot Leoffler, a former Michigan quarterback and assistant coach.
BG is averaging four wins per year since a 10-4 season in 2015 that paved the way for Dino Babers to become head coach at Syracuse.
Last time Ohio State played Bowling Green, the Buckeyes set a school record with 776 total yards while winning 77-10 in 2016.
2. There is a big game in week two.
The Buckeyes will resume their habit of major-conference home-and-home series this season with a game at Oregon.
The Ducks are coming off a Pac-12 championship season that concluded with a Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin, though they will have to replace star quarterback Justin Herbert.
Oregon has never beaten Ohio State, losing all nine previous meetings. That includes the 1959 and 2010 Rose Bowls along with the first College Football Playoff National Championship game five years ago.
3. This shapes up to be exactly what Gene Smith has said he wants in a schedule.
With the Falcons and the Ducks occupying opposite ends of the competitive spectrum, Buffalo could land right in the middle.
The Bulls come to town in the third week of the season after an 8-5 season that included a win over Charlotte in the Bahamas Bowl.
Lance Leipold has been roundly praised for his work in five seasons there, and this is the type of middle-of-the-road program Smith, Ohio State’s director of athletics, has said he would like to be the third non-conference foe along with a local team and a national power.
4. The Big Ten West games could all be interesting.
Iowa replaces Wisconsin as the top of the trio of teams from the other side of conference set to face Ohio State this season while Nebraska returns as Nebraska and Illinois replaces Northwestern at the bottom.
The Hawkeyes were 10-3 last season and beat USC in the Holiday Bowl, but they will be breaking in a new quarterback.
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Paradoxically, Nebraska followed an encouraging 4-8 season with a disappointing 5-7 campaign. It is anyone’s guess what coach Scott Frost’s Cornhuskers will look like in year three, but they should have star quarterback Adrian Martinez back to lead the offense.
The Fighting Illini could be on the upswing under Lovie Smith after making a bowl last season, and they have two more things going for them this year: Weird stuff has been known to happen when Ohio State visits Memorial Stadium, and this year’s battle for the Illibuck is one week before the Michigan game.
5. The toughest stretch comes in the middle.
After four straight weeks of games to open the season, Ohio State gets a week off to begin October. Then the Buckeyes play host to Iowa before traveling to Michigan State and Penn State.
Those could all be ranked foes.
The Spartans are coming off back-to-back 7-6 seasons, but Mark Dantonio’s teams have been known for coming out strong when they are counted out.
The difficulty of winning at Penn State is well-documented. Although Ohio State is 3-2 in “White Out” games there, the last two wins required great escapes and the Nittany Lions won in 2016.
On top of that, PSU should be the most talented team the Buckeyes face in the regular season.
6. The Game is still The Game.
Although back-to-back Buckeye blowouts have taken some luster off the Ohio State-Michigan game, this is still the best rivalry in sports.
Michigan is due for a big win against Ohio State eventually… right?
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Jim Harbaugh’s team could benefit from another year to get comfortable in a new offense and a new triggerman for the attack, though defensive questions will probably persist until the Wolverines stop an offense like Ohio State’s.
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