Over the past two Thursdays, we’ve taken a short glance at Ohio State’s nonconference schedule and the first half of the Big Ten games.
While back to back matchups against Michigan State and Nebraska in weeks five and six will be tough tests for the Buckeyes, the final four games are the ones Buckeye fans are waiting for.
This is particularly true for the last two; given the lack of a post-season this year, both matchups will be the culmination of the season for the seniors and a hungry team looking to finish on an up note. While the rest of the country is preparing for their bowl games, Buckeye coaches will be on the recruiting trail- a strong finish will certainly go a long way to solidifying yet another stellar class.
Oh, and there’s not exactly “friendly feelings” with those two programs anyway.
Week 9, Oct. 27: Ohio State at Penn State
(Beaver Stadium—State College, Pennsylvania)
2011 record: 9-4
Returning starters: 9 (4 offense, 5 defense)
It has been dubbed “The Battle of the Banneds.” Both Penn State and Ohio State will not be playing in bowl games in 2012, but they will square off Oct. 27 in Happy Valley. Ohio State has had recent success in games at Beaver Stadium, winning its last meeting there with the Nittany Lions, 24-7, in 2009.
Thanks to its recent sanctions, Penn State has lost several players to transfers. It leaves the Nittany Lions in a tough situation for 2012 and beyond. There will be a lot of hype surrounding this game, though, because both teams are ineligible for postseason play and will want to prove something to the rest of the nation.
Week 10, Nov. 3: Illinois at Ohio State
(Ohio Stadium—Columbus, Ohio)
2011 record: 7-6
Returning starters: 15 (8 offense, 7 defense)
The only way Ohio State could lose this game is by looking ahead to its contest next week against Wisconsin. But, that’s why they play the game.
Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase is a dynamic athlete that has the ability to create problems for defenses. But, the Buckeyes should be disciplined enough to contain Scheelhaase. And, with superstar wide receiver A.J. Jenkins no longer in the mix, it should make for an easy Ohio State victory.
Week 11, Nov. 10: BYE
2011 record: 0-142
Returning starters: 0
The second bye of the season for Ohio State (Hello, Hoosiers!), the Buckeyes will need this one to get healthy and ready for the most difficult games of the season.
Week 12, Nov. 17: Ohio State at Wisconsin
(Camp Randall Stadium—Madison, Wisconsin)
2011 record: 11-3
Returning starters: 11 (5 offense, 6 defense)
While the trip to East Lansing will be difficult, it does not compare to the environment Urban Meyer’s team will face in Madison.
Out goes one former ACC quarterback in Russell Wilson, in comes another in Danny O’Brien. The Badgers are currently ranked No. 12 in the preseason coaches’ poll and could be even higher when the Buckeyes travel to Madison. 2011 Heisman finalist Monte (now pronounced MonTAY) Ball returns behind what is sure to be another stellar offensive line.
Badgers and Buckeyes. Camp Randall Stadium. You’ll want to mark your calendar for this one.
Week 13, Nov. 23: That School Up North at Ohio State
(Ohio Stadium—Columbus, Ohio)
2011 record: 11-2
Returning starters: 14 (6 offense, 8 defense)
No matter their record, this will be Ohio State’s last football game of the 2012 season. TTUN’s 40-34 victory a season ago ended seven straight wins by Ohio State. Last year was Brady Hoke’s first season as Mich1gAAn head coach, this is Urban Meyer’s first at Ohio State. It will be an outstanding coaching matchup for years to come.
TTUN enters the season as one of the favorites to win the Big Ten. And, there’s nothing more the Buckeyes would love to do than end their chances at a Big Ten Championship. They may be given that opportunity on the final week of the regular season.
There are so many potential storylines to this game, but I think we should just wait until November to talk about this one. It’s difficult, I know.