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Ohio State's nonconference schedule this season should hold up against any playoff scrutiny.

How does Ohio State’s nonconference schedule impact playoff odds?

Ryan Ginn

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The good news for Ohio State is that the Big Ten is in a place where the Buckeyes’ playoff berth likely wouldn’t come down to schedule parsing if they lose just one game and win the conference. The same was true of Wisconsin last season — though we never got to find out for sure — despite the Badgers’ weak schedule. Playing Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State every year is a pretty good guarantee that there would be at least a couple solid wins on the résumé if the Buckeyes were Big Ten champions.

This year the nonconference schedule includes a neutral-site game against TCU in Arlington, Texas, and home games against Oregon State and Tulane. I’ll tackle that slate as a whole and say this is probably the ideal setup for Ohio State in terms of making the playoff. With a nine-game conference schedule, the Buckeyes probably could make it even easier, but the following is a general format Ohio State should adhere to on an annual basis:

  • One game against a “name” opponent or otherwise strong team that’s either a home-and-home or a neutral-site game.
  • One game against a beatable Power 5 team.
  • One game against a Group of 5 team, not an FCS opponent.

In some years, that type of schedule can cost Ohio State. Unfortunately, I think there’s a fair argument that if the Buckeyes had played Tulsa instead of Oklahoma last season they’d probably have made the playoff. But having a win against Oklahoma also buoyed Ohio State in 2016, so it just depends on the season.

Ultimately, I like having a quality opponent to use as insurance in the event the Big Ten is weaker than expected. And while the key nonconference game this season is in Texas, in other years the Buckeyes have hosted or will host Oklahoma, Notre Dame and Texas. Those games also come with the added bonus of giving season-ticket holders another reason to be excited and keep coming back.

With Tulane and Oregon State, it helps to have at least one Power 5 team in there and to not play FCS teams. Neither of those teams will challenge Ohio State, but it still looks better than beating the daylights out of Florida A&M. I also think TCU is exactly the type of game that can boost Ohio State, as it’s a winnable game against a strong team in what essentially will be a road game. Those wins look really good come December.

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