Every college football fan, myself included, likes to look at their favorite team's schedule and speculate on where the easy wins will come from, where the toughest game will be, and where there may be a sleeper team that will surprise their team. How accurate was I last year with this little exercise? Feel free to take a look, as the so-called "easier" games turned out to be anything but that for the Buckeyes.
The 2013 Ohio State Buckeyes are being touted as a possible national championship contender. The talent is definitely on the upswing with Coach Urban Meyer's pronounced emphasis upon recruiting, but the 2013 schedule is also a factor, as Ohio State's opponents are considered to be relatively easy for the Buckeyes this upcoming season.
Below are the games I have ranked, from easiest to toughest, as I see them. Will I be right, or will the opponents prove me wrong as last season?
1. Florida A&M (09/21/2013; kickoff TBA; Ohio Stadium): When the national media rip on Ohio State for not playing anybody, look to this game as Exhibit A. An FCS school, that went 4-7 in 2012?!? Ohio State should win this one comfortably and easily by about thirty points, maybe more. Look for Coach Meyer to play as many backup players as possible in this one, as this is the last game before B1G conference play begins the next week. The most notable thing about this game - this is the game that marks the possible return of Carlos Hyde from his early-season suspension.
2. Buffalo (08/31/2013; 12pm EST kickoff; ESPN 2 telecast; Ohio Stadium): Originally scheduled for the September 21st game, Buffalo agreed to move up to the season opener after Vanderbilt cancelled its trip to Ohio Stadium. A 4-8 MAC opponent to start the 2013 season is another example of a lackluster schedule in the eyes of the national media.
3. Iowa (10/19/2013; 3:30pm EST kickoff; ABC telecast; Ohio Stadium): The last time Iowa came into Ohio Stadium in 2009, this game went down to the wire, as Ohio State won in overtime 27-24 to secure a trip to The Rose Bowl. Why am I being so sure of an Ohio State victory this time, you ask? First, Iowa is coming off a 4-8 season in 2012, and most believe Iowa will not be much of a factor within B1G conference play. Secondly, Ohio State will be coming off a bye week, while Iowa will have played the week before against Michigan State. Lastly, this game is Ohio State's homecoming weekend - Ohio State usually does well in its homecoming games.
4. @ Illinois (11/16/2013; kickoff TBA; Memorial Stadium, Champaign, IL): Comparable to the Iowa game, Ohio State will travel to Champaign coming off a bye week, while Illinois will have played at Indiana the week before. Illinois is coming off a 2012 season where the record was 2-10. Why am I ranking Illinois a tougher game than Iowa? Champaign has always been a challenging place for Ohio State to play, especially when later season weather might be a factor.
Sleeper Games ~ Ohio State will be favored to win, but could be tougher than anticipated.
5. Indiana (11/23/2013; kickoff TBA; Ohio Stadium): After last season's scare against the Hoosiers, most Buckeye fans will not overlook Indiana's capacity to compete against the Buckeyes. In 2011, which was the last time Indiana played the Buckeyes in Ohio Stadium, Ohio State did not win this game until late in the 4th quarter. Indiana should be in contention for a bowl bid this season under head coach Kevin Wilson, but I look for Ohio State to emerge victorious in its final home game of the 2013 season.
6. San Diego State (09/07/2013; 3:30pm EST kickoff; ABC telecast; Ohio Stadium): As written up above, the 2013 schedule had to be juggled after Vanderbilt cancelled its game against Ohio State. San Diego State was added to the schedule, and Ohio State fans probably look at this game as another easy lay-up. In the words of ESPN analyst Lee Corso, "Not so fast, my friend.". San Diego State was 9-4 in 2012, and have not been intimidated by the Buckeyes throughout the years whenever they have visited Ohio Stadium - 2003 (Ohio State 16, SDSU 13). 2005 (Ohio State 27, SDSU 6), where Ohio State was actually behind after the first play 6-0. Throw in how San Diego State had the 20th-best rushing offense in the country last season, Ohio State's inexperienced defensive line and linebackers, and Carlos Hyde's suspension, and I see this game being tighter than most Ohio State fans would prefer.
Part two will focus on the toughest games, as I see them, for the 2013 season.