COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State once again has one of the top rosters in college football, which makes the schedule all the more important as the Buckeyes battle for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
This year, there are no scheduling quirks that could present an obstacle on the quest for a championship. Here are five things to know about the Buckeyes’ 2018 schedule:
1. Rare opponent in a familiar setting
Ohio State’s College Football Playoff title in the 2014 season came at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and the Buckeyes returned in 2017 for a Cotton Bowl win against USC. Now, the Buckeyes will have a chance to revisit those memories and add a third big win when they face off against TCU in the third game of the season. This marks the first time since 1973 that the Buckeyes and Horned Frogs have met. Ohio State has won the last three matchups between the two schools and owns a 4-1-1 record vs. TCU.
2. Whiteout conditions
Ohio State’s last two trips to Happy Valley haven’t been very pleasant. In 2014, an average Penn State team pushed the eventual national champions to the brink as the Buckeyes needed a big sack from Joey Bosa to fend off the Nittany Lions in double overtime.
Two years later, a blocked field goal that was returned for a touchdown helped Penn State upset Ohio State en route to winning the Big Ten. Both of those games were Penn State’s whiteout game, leaving Urban Meyer to lament the Buckeyes’ seemingly perpetual fate as the marquee opponent in even-numbered years.
“Wish they saved the whiteouts for other games,” he said prior to the 2016 matchup.
He may get his wish one day, but it won’t be this season. Ohio State is once again the Nittany Lions’ whiteout opponent.
3. Bye-week break
There have been years in the past, most notably in 2016, when Ohio State had bad luck when it came to facing teams coming off a week of rest. That season, the Buckeyes had to play road night games against elite teams — Wisconsin and Penn State — who were coming off a bye week. There’s no challenges of that magnitude this year. The only time the Buckeyes will face a team coming off a bye is when Nebraska visits Columbus in November. Coincidentally, Ohio State will also be coming off a bye week that game.
4. Cross-division opponents
Ohio State doesn’t have to face three of the top teams the West Division — Wisconsin, Iowa and Northwestern — in 2018. But the Buckeyes also don’t get the easiest foe of the bunch, Illinois. Instead, it will be three teams that probably can’t beat the Buckeyes but have rising stars as head coaches: Nebraska, Purdue and Minnesota. New Cornhuskers coach Scott Frost went undefeated at UCF in 2017 and will be trying to return his alma mater to its glory days. P.J. Fleck is trying to rebuild Minnesota after posting a 13-1 record with Western Michigan in 2016. And Purdue coach Jeff Brohm already has the Boilermakers headed in the right direction, going 7-6 at a program that had won just nine games in the previous four seasons combined.
5. No FCS opponent
Only 22 teams in FBS won’t face an FCS team in 2018, and Ohio State is one of them. The Big Ten briefly banned scheduling FCS opponents but announced in 2017 that teams can once again schedule teams from that division in years in which they have four league home games instead of five. Ohio State has five Big Ten home games this year, so it wouldn’t be eligible to schedule an FCS foe, anyway, but the Buckeyes don’t have any FCS foes scheduled in the future, either. The last time the Buckeyes did so was in 2013, when they beat Florida A&M by a 76-0 margin that frankly could have been far worse.