COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) After this season, Ohio State only has two games scheduled against other teams from the state.
Even though the Big Ten is adding a game to its conference schedule in 2016 - eliminating one more possibility per year of the Buckeyes taking on an in-state opponent - Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith has no plans for his football team to stop playing schools from within the state's borders.
''Absolutely not,'' he said Thursday. ''The frequency will probably diminish as we move from eight to nine conference games. And, frankly, we'll try and add in some different-branded schools, like a Tulsa in `16, or Oregon State in `18. When we get into scenarios like that, it makes it more difficult to schedule a MAC school (or Cincinnati). But it will not go away.''
The Buckeyes have won their last 38 meetings with other colleges from the state heading into Saturday's game against Kent State. They also host Cincinnati in their next game on Sept. 27.
Not since a 7-6 setback to Oberlin in 1921 have the Buckeyes lost to an in-state opponent. For years they didn't even deign to play one, ignoring them from 1933 through 1991.
However, Ohio State has played at least one in-state opponent in 18 of the last 23 seasons. It currently has plans to play only Bowling Green in 2016 and Cincinnati in 2019.
''When we get to the `20s, we'll schedule some Ohio schools,'' Smith said. ''It'll happen.''
Such backdoor rivalries add some interest because of ties between the teams' players, coaches and fans. Many high school teammates face off against each other. The same connection goes for coaches.
Second-year Kent State head coach Paul Haynes, who was an All-Mid-American Conference defensive back for the Golden Flashes, was a valued assistant at Ohio State for seven years before taking the job at his alma mater.
More than most, he has an idea of what his team is up against.
''It's going to be a huge challenge for our guys. We know that,'' he said. ''But our guys are looking forward to going into the `Shoe and playing our best game.''
Similarly, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer is an Ohio native who got his first head-coaching position at the MAC's Bowling Green in 2001.
He has vivid memories of playing against major opponents during his two seasons there.
''It's a great opportunity, especially in that conference, because you recruit all the same players. That's why I love the MAC,'' he said. ''Usually the team with the quarterback wins that conference, and there have been some phenomenal quarterbacks come out of the MAC, really good players. But they don't have the depth. But it's a really good coaching league because for the most part they're all about the same talentwise.''
When Ohio State meets an Ohio team, it also creates a lot of money that stays in the state. For example, Kent State gets $850,000 for coming to Ohio Stadium on Saturday. Cincinnati will receive $888,246 for making the same trip in two weeks.
The Buckeyes have had a couple of close calls since resuming play against in-state teams in '92, but for the most part the results have been lopsided.
But there's always the possibility of an upset. If a Kent State ever toppled the Buckeyes, it would resonate around the state for generations to come.
''You take the risk of getting beat. You just never know,'' Smith said. ''The MAC has outstanding coaches and great players, many of them from the state of Ohio. So the passion run deeps. That's the danger for any team - but obviously in the state of Ohio, there's a greater risk.''
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