Part one of this series reviewed the perceived "easier" games for Ohio State in the upcoming 2013 season. As former legendary Ohio State head coach Woody Hayes was fond of saying, "Anything easy ain't worth a damn.". Part two will focus on the more challenging games of this upcoming season, as I predict them to be, for the Buckeyes. As always, I look forward to your comments and contributions.
Beware The Bye Teams
The next two teams on this list both have bye weeks before they play Ohio State. While I expect Ohio State to win these games, I do not expect an easy time of it in either contest.
7. Penn State (10/26/2013; 8pm EST kickoff; ABC/ESPN/ESPN2 telecast; Ohio Stadium): It would be very easy for Ohio State fans to look at this game as an easy win - Penn State is still in the midst of its scholarship reductions, Penn State will have an inexperienced quarterback, and the game is at night in Ohio Stadium. Very good points, and I am guessing there are others I missed.
Here are some others to consider - Penn State won in Ohio Stadium in its last appearance there, after legendary coach Joe Paterno was let go by Penn State. Penn State is well-coached by Bill O'Brien, who was in heavy demand by NFL teams last winter. And...Penn State has a bye coming into this game, while Ohio State will be coming off the Iowa game the week before. Considering this is a home game for Ohio State, that is why I rank Penn State as being easier than...
8. @ Purdue (11/02/2013; kickoff TBA; Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, IN): Ohio State fans know, or should know, what has happened the last two times the Buckeyes have traveled to Ross-Ade Stadium to take on the Boilermakers (2009, 2011). I believe new Purdue head coach Darrell Hazell, a former Ohio State assistant during Jim Tressel's tenure, is well-aware of those challenges too. More importantly, the returning players on Purdue's roster have to be seething with anticipation for this game, after how close they were to defeating the Buckeyes last season in Ohio Stadium, only to lose in overtime. All those factors, the home field, and a bye week, should make this an interesting trip for the Buckeyes.
Goin' Back To Cal(i)
9. @ California (09/14/2013; 7pm EST kickoff; Fox Sports telecast; California Memorial Stadium, Berkeley, CA): I can almost hear you now ~ "Chip is concerned about a 3-9 team this much?!?". Yes, I am, and here is why - Sonny Dykes is now the head coach for Cal, and Dykes' teams are traditionally very strong offensively. To put it in perspective, Dykes' Louisiana Tech squad lost a close shootout last season vs Texas A&M, 59-57. Ohio State had to rally last year against California, and that was in Ohio Stadium. Throw in how the Buckeyes have to travel across the country (even Coach Meyer has expressed concern about this), as well as Carlos Hyde's suspension, and I think this one could be closer than expected by Ohio State fans.
Get Those Badgers Out Of My House
10. Wisconsin (09/28/2013; 8pm EST kickoff; ABC/ESPN/ESPN 2 telecast; Ohio Stadium): I have been fortunate to have been in Ohio Stadium to watch Ohio State defeat Wisconsin (2007, 2009, and 2011). As a matter of fact, I was up in C Deck on the 40 yard line looking down at Braxton Miller as this pass was released. I was able to happily watch Wisconsin's secondary frantically race back in vain as Devin Smith waited on the pass in the end zone.
As usual, this game will be determined by how/if Ohio State's revamped defensive front will be able to stop the traditionally strong Wisconsin running game. The team that wins this game will be in the driver's seat for a berth in The B1G conference championship game. And just like 2007, 2009, and 2011, I am looking forward to being in Ohio Stadium for this one.
The Road Warriors (?)
11. @ Northwestern (10/05/2013; 8pm EST kickoff; ABC/ESPN/ ESPN 2 telecast; Ryan Field, Evanston, IL): Yes, I know that Ohio State has usually had their way with Northwestern in recent years. As a matter of fact, Ohio State has seemingly made a point of bashing Northwestern ever since the last time Ohio State played a night game at Northwestern.
Why the concern? Because Ohio State will have played a night game the week before versus Wisconsin, while Northwestern will have played Maine. I am not saying Ohio State cannot get psychologically up for two weeks in a row, but it will be a challenge, especially in front of a possibly raucous Northwestern crowd.
12. @ Michigan (11/30/2013; kickoff TBA; Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI): THE GAME. Throw out the records on this one.
Actually, Ohio State fans would be wise to consult the record books on this one. Think of the various disappointments and heartbreaks the Buckeyes have experienced in their many trips to "That Team Up North", especially when an undefeated season is on the line. 1993. 1995. Those two right there cost Ohio State a chance at a national championship. The same thing could be on the line this season.
Can you imagine how painful a loss to TTUN would be if it cost Ohio State a shot at a national championship? Yes, I know - they might play the very next week for The B1G conference championship. If Ohio State does not win the first time, it could make the second time mean less.
As I wrote in part one, it is very natural to look at games on a schedule and mark down the wins ahead of time. It is also why the games are not played on paper, but on the field. Ohio State fans everywhere, myself included, will start watching on August 31st to see if their predictions of ease or difficulty are as accurate as they forecast.