Turning my attention to Ohio State football, I am naturally anxious to see how Ohio State will do versus Clemson in The Orange Bowl on January 3rd, 2014. After losing to Michigan State in The B1G Championship Game, Ohio State fans will want to see if the Buckeyes will successfully rebound heading into the 2014 season.
The long view of the 2014 season, and the subsequent seasons after that, are of concern to me as an Ohio State fan. The 2014 season will be the first season of the four team college football playoff, and strength of schedule will be a key criteria. How will Ohio State fare under such scrutiny?
Ohio State fans heard all throughout the 2013 season how weak the Buckeyes' opponents were ~ Buffalo. San Diego State. California. Florida A&M. Yes, I know that Buffalo and San Diego State were bowl teams; ironically, the teams played each other in The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
Yes, Ohio State and the B1G members are moving to a nine game conference schedule in 2016. But look at Ohio State's 2015 non-conference schedule opponents ~ at Virginia Tech, which is a solid opponent. Then home versus Hawaii, Northern Illinois, and Western Michigan. Does that sound like an impressive slate of opponents that will impress the college football playoff committee?
What I am proposing, in light of a nine-game conference schedule, is the following:
- Target an in-state MAC opponent for the season opener: Akron, Bowling Green, Kent State, Miami University, Ohio University, and Toledo would be ideal openers on a rotating basis. Every team would benefit greatly from the financial boost of having Ohio State contribute to their respective athletic departments. For Ohio State, this would also allow the Buckeyes to work on their opening game challenges against somewhat decent opponents, yet not ruin their national championship hopes right out of the gate...hopefully. For creativity, these teams could even be the "home" team by hosting Ohio State at stadiums like Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, or FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland.
- Target close geographic teams in other top conferences: Teams such as Louisville, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, West Virginia, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Duke, North Carolina, Boston College, Georgia Tech, Marshall, and Iowa State should be on Gene Smith's speed dial. Again, several of these teams are on Ohio State's upcoming schedules, but locking them in can only help with that perceived strength of schedule component. (Yes, I know Notre Dame is close geographically, but with Notre Dame's new ACC schedule, good luck getting them on the schedule. Plus, why help them, when they repeatedly turned down The B1G's multiple membership invitations?)
- Get some SEC opponents on the schedule: Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Missouri are all close geographically and would only help to boost the rivalry between The B1G and SEC.
Think that wouldn't be impressive to members of the college football playoff committee, when evaluating Ohio State versus other teams' records for possible playoff inclusion?
Like many Ohio State fans this holiday season, I have much to be thankful for, heading into 2014. If Santa wants to bring me some more presents, tougher non-conference opponents for the Buckeyes would not be a bad way to start off future college football seasons.