The Ohio State Buckeyes play one of their most challenging schedules of the Urban Meyer era in 2016, mostly because a road game against Oklahoma looms in Week 3. The Sooners are the highest-ranked non-conference opponent Ohio State has played in the regular season in the last five seasons.
However, Ohio State also has to go on the road to play Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan State. None of those games are gimmes. Here’s a look at the 12-game schedule:
Sept 3., noon, vs. Bowling Green: The Falcons are one of the best teams in the Mid-American Conference. They finished 10-4 last season and beat Northern Illinois 34-14 in the MAC championship game. They’re the preseason favorite in the MAC East Division.
Ohio State has not lost in 45 straight games against in-state opponents. It has won 40 games in that span and tied one game, 7-7 against Wooster in 1924. Its last loss to an Ohio team came in 1921, 7-6 to Oberlin.
Bowling Green has a new head coach. Mike Jinks was hired in December. He was an associate head coach and running backs coach at Texas Tech last season.
Sept. 10, 3:30 p.m., vs. Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane have won a total of 11 games the last three seasons after finishing 11-3 in 2012. This game was announced in August 2012. It will be the first meeting between the two schools.
Sept. 17, 7:30 p.m., at Oklahoma: The Sooners rank third in the Associated Press preseason poll. Ohio State ranks sixth.
The game matches two Heisman Trophy candidates. Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield has 14-1 odds, according to Bovada. Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett has 12-1 odds.
Oklahoma finished 11-2 last season and lost in the College Football Playoff semifinals, 37-17 to Clemson in the Orange Bowl.
Oct. 1, noon, vs. Rutgers: Former Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash returns to Columbus for the first time since taking the head coaching job at Rutgers.
In its first two seasons in Big Ten play, Rutgers is 4-12. Ohio State has outscored Rutgers 105-24 the last two seasons.
Oct. 8, TBA, vs. Indiana: The Buckeyes have won 20 straight games against the Hoosiers. Indiana led the Big Ten in scoring offense last season (36.5 points per game) and returns running back Devine Redding (1,012 rushing yards).
Oct. 15, 8 p.m., at Wisconsin: The Buckeyes play the Badgers for the first time since beating them 59-0 in the 2014 Big Ten championship. Wisconsin was 10-3 last season and beat Southern California 23-21 in the Holiday Bowl.
The Badgers named senior Bart Houston their starting quarterback. He’s one of many new starters Ohio State will see in 2016. Houston backed up Joel Stave last season.
Oct. 22, 8 p.m., at Penn State: The Buckeyes return to Happy Valley for the first time since 2014 when Barrett led them to an overtime victory. Penn State named redshirt sophomore Trace McSorley its starting quarterback. He appeared in seven games last season in relief of Christian Hackenberg.
Oct. 29, 5:30 p.m., vs. Northwestern: The Wildcats improved from 5-7 in 2014 to 10-3 in 2015. The Buckeyes have won 29 of their last 30 games against Northwestern, which returns 13 starters.
Nov. 5, 8 p.m., vs. Nebraska: The Buckeyes play the Cornhuskers for the first time since 2012 when Ohio State won 63-38 in Columbus. Nebraska returns 12 starters.
Senior Tommy Armstrong, who had 33 career starts, returns as the starting quarterback. He ranks second in school history in passing yards (6,691).
Nov. 12, TBA, at Maryland: Ohio State beat Maryland 49-28 last season in Columbus and 52-24 in 2014 in College Park, Md. Maryland returns nine starters from a team that finished 3-9. D.J. Durkin, the former defensive coordinator at Michigan, is the new head coach.
Nov. 19, TBA, at Michigan State: The Spartans handed Ohio State its only loss in 2015, 17-14 on a last-second field goal in Columbus. They broke Ohio State’s 23-game winning streak.
Fifth-year senior Tyler O’Connor, who started against the Buckeyes last season with Connor Cook injured, will start. The Spartans rank 12th in the AP preseason poll.
Nov. 26, TBA, vs. Michigan: Ohio State beat Wolverines 42-13 in Ann Arbor in November and has won 12 of the last 14 games in the series. The Wolverines were 10-3 last season and rank seventh in the preseason poll.
As of Friday, Michigan had not named a starting quarterback for the season opener. Senior John O’Korn and junior Wilton Speight are competing for the job.
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