In part 1, I began ranking Ohio State's 2012 opponents, from easiest (UAB) through what I would consider a challenging opponent (Illinois). Let the ranking of the most difficult games continue.
7. Purdue, 10/20 ~ A probable curveball in the rankings. Yes, I know Ohio State usually has their way with the Boilermakers in Ohio Stadium. I was in attendance the last two times Purdue played at Ohio Stadium (2008, 2010). Both of those were snoozefests, and this one could be as well. I rank Purdue in this spot simply because of the fact that Ohio State has lost on the road at Purdue in 2009 and 2011. With returning quarterbacks Robert Marve and Caleb TerBush, as well as defensive lineman Kawann Short, Purdue could enter into this game feeling capable of pulling off the upset. Purdue will enter into this game after playing Wisconsin, while Ohio State will be returning from a visit to Indiana.
8. Nebraska, 10/06 ~ Nebraska will enter into Ohio Stadium for the first time since the 1956 season. It will be homecoming weekend for Ohio State. Throw in the fact that this is a night game, meaning the fans will be well-saturated from a day's worth of tailgating, and this should be quite memorable for the visiting Cornhusker fans. The dramatic defensive collapse by the Buckeyes last season at Nebraska will probably be the focal point of the coaching staff in preparing for Nebraska. RB Rex Burkhead and QB Taylor Martinez will lead the traditionally strong Nebraska rushing attack against what should be an improved Ohio State defense. Remembering Nebraska will be coming off what should be a tough game with Wisconsin, and that this is a night game in Ohio Stadium, Ohio State should be too much for Nebraska and ruin a homecoming weekend for former Buckeye and Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini.
9. UCF, 09/08 ~ Yes, you are reading this correctly. While I believe Ohio State will win this game, I do believe Ohio State fans may be overlooking what could be a close game until the conclusion. UCF will enter into Ohio Stadium with a defense that ranked 9th overall in the country in 2011, allowing under 110 yards rushing per game. Considering Ohio State may be without RB Jordan Hall, as well as the relative inexperience of QB Braxton Miller and the Ohio State passing game, this could be a game where the Ohio State offense seemingly takes a step back in order to move forward. Again, I believe Ohio State will win this game. I just believe this could be a trap game that Coach Meyer will be concerned about after the season opener versus Miami University.
10. Michigan, 11/24 ~ THE GAME. It always means something, but THE GAME will take on even greater significance for an Ohio State squad ineligible for the postseason. During Coach John Cooper's tenure, how many times did Michigan delight in ruining dream seasons for Ohio State? Ohio State could have a chance to spoil Michigan's chances for a slot in the 2012 Big Ten Championship Game. Michigan has a demanding schedule featuring defending champion Alabama, at Notre Dame, at Purdue, Michigan State, at Nebraska, and Iowa, before coming to Columbus. What kind of state will the Wolverines be in when they arrive? Even so, this year's edition of THE GAME should be a good one, with the Buckeyes sending their senior class out on a high note victorious. Anxious to go to this one with my friends Tim, Jay, and Eric in my first-ever RV appearance at an Ohio State game.
11. @ Michigan State, 09/29 ~ Now we are into a game that I believe Ohio State will be an underdog. Returning the majority of a defensive unit that ranked sixth nationally in 2011, Michigan State is the probable favorite to win the Legends Division of The Big Ten. Michigan State will open its season against Boise State, @ Central Michigan, Notre Dame, and Eastern Michigan before Ohio State arrives into Spartan Stadium. While I expect Michigan State to be tested by Boise State and Notre Dame, it would be surprising to me if Michigan State is not unbeaten, as I predict Ohio State will also be at this time. Michigan State lost long-time starting quarterback Kirk Cousins, as well as RB Edwin Baker, WRs B.J. Cunningham and Keshawn Martin, and TE Brian Linthicum. While RB Le'Veon Bell returns to aid new starting quarterback Andrew Maxwell, will it be enough for the Spartans to defeat the Buckeyes in what could be a marquee Big Ten opener?
12. @ Wisconsin, 11/17 ~ Think about some of the battles that have taken place between these two teams over the past few seasons at Camp Randall. 2008, when Terrelle Pryor ran in on an option keeper in the closing seconds. 2010, when Ohio State went into Camp Randall ranked number one in the BCS, only to be defeated. And who could forget last year's epic battle that was in the closing seconds by Braxton Miller's heave to Devin Smith in Ohio Stadium? Wisconsin will clearly have revenge on its mind when the Buckeyes arrive for their last home game of the season in Camp Randall. Will Ohio State have enough to defeat and deny the preseason 2012 Leaders Division favorite?