The speculation, debate and conversations about Ohio State never end, and Lettermen Row is always ready to dive into the discussions. All week long, senior writer Austin Ward will field topics about the Buckeyes submitted by readers and break down anything that’s on the minds of the Best Damn Fans in the Land. Have a question that needs to be tackled, like the one today about Ohio State and the running backs? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.
@AWardSports An early look at next seasons Buckeye schedule, outside the game at Oregon, Oct. could be a brutal stretch, with Iowa, at Mich. St., at Penn St. & Nebraska (if they make significant strides in Frost's 3rd year). Road games to East Lansing & State College…
— VA Buckeye! 🇺🇲 (@Buckeyes23701) January 26, 2020
As hard as folks outside of Big Ten country might try to discredit it, once again any claims about the perceived lack of strength on the Ohio State schedule will be baseless.
The Buckeyes might not be playing the toughest slate in the nation. But it’s full of enough quality tests within one of the most fierce divisions in college football and outside it with a marquee non-conference matchup at Oregon to ensure that Ohio State will have undoubtedly had to prove itself by the time the playoff field is unveiled.
The key difference in 2020 compared to last year? Ohio State has a bit more balance from start to finish, getting one major test in every month. And while October might wind up as the most difficult stretch, it probably wouldn’t be fair to call it particularly brutal.
There’s not much reason to expect that Iowa is capable of posing a significant threat in the Horseshoe, particularly coming on the heels of an Ohio State off date. And there are still many more reasons to doubt Nebraska than to believe it is ready to again be a contender in the league. The Buckeyes know full well that any visit to Michigan State has the potential to be tricky, but that program appears to be in absolute disarray right now and on paper would really have no business upsetting the three-time defending league champs.
That leaves the trip to Penn State, which appears to be taking the place of Michigan as the trendy pick to potentially unseat the Buckeyes. That matchup could again wind up as the East Division title game and the most important in determining the Big Ten’s likely representative in the College Football Playoff. But Ohio State has still maintained an edge in that series recently, and it could also catch a break if that winds up being a FOX broadcast — which would almost certainly shift kickoff to noon due to network preferences and the World Series, taking a bite out of what has become Penn State’s preferred primetime Whiteout game.
Between the three months of the regular season, October does stand out as the one that will beef up the strength of schedule. Really, though, it appears at this point like Ohio State will have a unique setup with the most pivotal games all spread out with Oregon anchoring September, Penn State waiting in October and rival Michigan obviously looming at the end of November. The fact that two of those games are away from the Horseshoe is another reminder that there won’t be anything easy for Ryan Day as he looks for another perfect run through the regular season.
Obviously plenty can change between January and August with a long offseason ahead. But even at this way-too-early point, it’s clear that the Buckeyes will have the kind of strong schedule that should resonate — without having to clear all of the highest hurdles in a row.
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