Urban Meyer will look across the field Saturday in Ohio Stadium to the other sideline and probably flash back 15 years to the place that launched his head coaching career.
Bowling Green gave Meyer his first opportunity to be in charge of a program and he took the ball and ran with it. Now, as the 2016 season kicks off in the Horseshoe, Meyer will lead sixth-ranked Ohio State against BG in the opener for both teams (Noon ET, Big Ten Network).
"I love that school," said Meyer, who begins his fifth season as Ohio State's head coach. "When I think about Bowling Green, it's one of the most tradition-rich programs in the MAC."
The new season will be one of change for the Buckeyes, who return only six starters from a team that finished 12-1 and beat Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl in January. Gone is a dazzling array of talent that made its mark in the NFL Draft this spring.
But while the turnover in personnel is significant, one thing that never changes about Ohio State football is expectations. There's plenty of talent, thanks to Meyer and his staff's tenacious recruiting, to plug newcomers into the holes that were left by the outgoing class.
Meyer sees similarities to the 2014 season when a relatively untested team stumbled early in the season and then finished with a College Football Playoff national championship. That's not to say he's predicting another national title, but he really likes the young personnel on the roster.
"I'm very excited to watch them play," Meyer said. "This is a talented team. We have good guys. This has been a good camp. Good people to work with."
Each side of the ball has one anchor to provide leadership. On offense, quarterback J.T. Barrett is everyone's pick as the preseason All-Big Ten quarterback and a potential Heisman Trophy candidate. On defense, linebacker Raekwon McMillan begins his third season as a starter and will be counted upon heavily as a rock in the middle of a young defense that at hit hard by departures.
As for Ohio State's opponent, Bowling Green is certainly no slouch. The Falcons finished 10-3 a year ago and played in the GoDaddy Bowl.
Mike Jinks is in his first year as Bowling Green's head coach after serving as Texas Tech associate head coach in 2015. He took over for Dino Babers, who left after last season for Syracuse.
The Falcons are the defending Mid-American Conference champions and have won three straight MAC East Division titles. They're favored again to win the division in 2016.
Facing a first-year head coach, particularly one who has never been a head coach at a previous college stop, presents some challenges in preparation for the Buckeyes. Meyer again recalled the 2014 season when Virginia Tech threw a foreign defensive scheme at Ohio State and pulled off an upset in Ohio Stadium.
"You have to expect the unexpected. ... On offense, they're going to do what he knows and that's Texas Tech," Meyer said.
Ohio State will be a heavy favorite to win, but Bowling Green won't be intimidated by the surroundings. Last year, the Falcons almost knocked off Tennessee on the road and beat Big Ten teams Maryland and Purdue.
"We'll be ready," Jinks said.
Ohio State leads the all-time series 4-0. The two Ohio teams last met in 2006, a 35-7 victory for the top-ranked Buckeyes. Ohio State is 32-1 against Mid-American Conference opponents and has won 40 consecutive games over in-state opponents.