Seven Thoughts on Buckeyes Schedule
Today's Big Ten schedule release gave fans some long-awaited hope for a 2020 football season. Even though the conference said today's announcement isn't a guarantee that there will actually be a season, it gives us something to tangibly look at in the meantime. Obviously, the schedule is subject to change.
Since the Buckeyes will host Michigan in their seventh game of the fall, here are my seven initial thoughts upon seeing the schedule today.
Michigan Game is Week 7
Let's start with that Michigan game, since it's the most obvious discussion point among fans today. I admit, I like the timing of the game. I'm glad it isn't too early in the year - I want both teams to have some momentum coming into the game. The only thing better than beating Michigan is ... beating them when they are at their best. A late October game gives both teams chances to play several times before The Game. Perhaps it's blind faith, but I believe that the season will happen and I'm not worried about playing only a few games and having it called off.
According to the OSU Communications Department, this will be the first time since the national championship season of 1942 that Michigan will not be Ohio State’s final regular season opponent. Ohio State played Michigan on Nov. 21 in 1942 and closed the 9-1 campaign one week later against the Iowa Seahawks. Since then, the two schools had met in the teams’ final regular season game for 77 consecutive years.
On-Time Scheduled Start to the Year
Ohio State will open the season on the same weekend as their initial September 5 game against Bowling Green, so training camp shouldn't have the timing excessively altered. The season starts on Thursday, September 3 vs Illinois and training camp moves up one day earlier than expected. That Thursday night matchup will be the first game played in the Big Ten this year.
No Wisconsin or Minnesota
The Buckeyes likely assumed they'd continue to play everyone within their division when the new schedule came out and a tenth game was added. But they probably weren't counting on dodging BOTH Wisconsin AND Minnesota in the cross-divisional games. That's a really nice draw to avoid the two best teams on the other side of the table.
Hard to Envision an Easier Start ... on Paper
The season begins with a pair of pretty easy games. A Thursday night game against Illinois, followed by an extra couple of days to prepare for Rutgers. The Buckeyes haven't lost to the Illini since 2007 - a stretch of eight consecutive wins - and in four of the last five wins, Ohio State has scored at least 52 points.
Meanwhile, Ohio State is 6-0 in their brief series history against Rutgers and they've only failed to score 50 points in one of those games ... a 49-7 win in 2015.
Two Mid-season Byes are Well-Timed
I like the two mid-season weeks off and the two weeks between the last currently scheduled game and potential Big Ten title game. I also like the timing of Ohio State's bye weeks (October 3 and November 14). I like the fact the season starts with four games, then a week off, then five games, then a week off before wrapping up with Iowa.
If I were Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska or Wisconsin, I don't think I'd be particularly happy with two bye weeks in a four-week stretch, both of which are in the back half of the year. I think the conference accomplished what it hoped to - have plenty of wiggle room to make adjustments as necessary.
No Divisional Games to Open or Close the Season
Nobody starts the season or finishes the current version of the season with a divisional game. Since the league is still planning to hold a Big Ten Championship game, I like the fact that everyone has a chance to play once before jumping into divisional play.
No Particularly Difficult Back-to-Backs
I think Ohio State's schedule is pretty back-loaded, but I don't think they have any exceptionally difficult back-to-back games. Michigan State to Michigan could have some real thump to it most years, but I don't believe the Spartans are going to be particularly threatening this season.
I like that the Buckeyes play Maryland between Michigan and Penn State. Maryland is good enough to be taken seriously, but not good enough to beat the Scarlet and Gray. And with Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Candidate Micah Parsons reportedly opting out of the season for Penn State, that game in Happy Valley just got a lot less intimidating. Plus, a usually rowdy crowd will make the game day environment a lot easier on the visiting Buckeyes ... that can be one of the hardest places to play in America when it's loud.
All things considered, I think it's fair to say the expectation for the season should be to run the table and play for the Big Ten title. Ohio State is absolutely good enough to win the league, and the College Football Playoff (should that happen). It's the kind of pressure that comes with success, and fair or not, the Buckeyes are used to handling those kinds of expectations.