2016 football schedule analysis: Ohio State Buckeyes

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

2016 football schedule analysis: Ohio State Buckeyes

Ohio State is eager and ready to get back on top of the Big Ten. The Buckeyes won the national championship in 2014 and looked primed to repeat in 2015, but the coaching staff’s bungled handling of the quarterback situation proved ruinous for a team that had a national-best 12 NFL draft picks.

[ MORE: Dienhart: Ohio State Buckeyes’ offseason to-do list ]

Now, Ohio State has myriad holes to fill as it looks to become Big Ten kings again. And it faces a tough schedule that will make ascending back to the top a challenge.

Here is a look at the Buckeyes’ 2016 schedule.

Toughest non-conference game: at Oklahoma, Sept. 17. This one should be a doozy. These college football titans have met just two times, with OU taking a 29-28 decision in Columbus in 1977 and the Buckeyes prevailing 24-14 in Norman in 1983. Sooner coach and Youngstown, Ohio, native Bob Stoops would love to dump Ohio State and build on OU’s trip to the playoff last season. This will be the ultimate litmus test for a Buckeye squad that is being overhauled.

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Toughest conference game: at Michigan State, Nov. 19. No doubt, it is the rematch vs. the Spartans, the defending Big Ten champ who earned a playoff spot last season. The Spartans play with a perpetual chip on their shoulder, playing the disrespect card better than anyone else in the nation. And Michigan State has no fear of Ohio State, toppling the Buckeyes last year in Columbus without Connor Cook en route to winning the rugged Big Ten East. It is the only Big Ten regular-season loss for Urban Meyer.

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Who they don’t play: Purdue, Illinois, Minnesota and Iowa.

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Easiest game: vs. Tulsa, Sept. 10. Tulsa won’t know what it got hit by when it visits Columbus in the first meeting between these programs. A massive check will ease the pain of the Golden Hurricane, who played in a bowl last season but still will be overmatched.

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Toughest stretch: November will be a challenge. The month opens with a visit from Nebraska. And it ends with a game at Michigan State and vs. Michigan. The Cornhuskers haven’t played the Buckeyes since 2012, with OSU taking a 63-38 win in Columbus. NU won the other meeting vs. Ohio State as a Big Ten school, taking a 34-27decision in 2011 in Lincoln. Urban Meyer is 2-2 vs. Michigan State. The Wolverines are aching to knock off Ohio State and flip the script in this rivalry that has favored the Buckeyes in recent years.

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Best chance for an upset: vs. Michigan, Nov. 26. The Buckeyes need to be careful in the finale when Michigan comes to Columbus. Yes, recent history has favored Ohio State in this iconic rivalry dubbed simply “The Game.” But the Wolverines are on the rise under Jim “Mr. Satellite Camp” Harbaugh. The Buckeyes have dominated this series of late, going 12-2 since 2001 and winning the last four meetings with a 42-13 triumph last season. The last time Michigan won in Columbus? In 2000, when the Wolverines took a 38-26 decision. Ohio State also needs to be wary during back-to-back road games at Wisconsin and at Penn State on Oct. 15 and Oct. 22, respectively.

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Best chance to pull an upset: at Michigan State, Nov. 19. Ohio State won’t be an underdog often in 2016 … if it all. But it may be when it treks to Michigan State for the penultimate game of the season. The Spartans shocked OSU last year in Columbus, knocking off the No. 3 Buckeyes, 17-14, with backup Tyler O’Connor at the controls. The loss effectively killed Ohio State’s Big Ten and national title hopes while helping propel the Spartans to the Big Ten championship and playoff bid. No doubt, the Buckeyes haven’t forgotten. Urban Meyer has four losses as Ohio State coach; two are vs. the Spartans. Check this out: Ohio State has won its last five trips to East Lansing, last losing in 1999.

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Must win: at Michigan State, Nov. 19. For a program with national championship hopes, Ohio State most likely must win them all. But the biggie will be the trip to Michigan State. These are the preeminent programs in the Big Ten, boasting more talent than the others. And each is well coached. If the Buckeyes want their Big Ten throne back, they must walk through East Lansing. And, it won’t be easy.

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Bye week: This comes on Sept. 24, after the Buckeyes have played their three non-conference games. And Ohio State may need the extra rest after playing at Oklahoma on Sept. 17.

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Day Date Opponent Time TV Result
Sat. 9/3TBA vs. Bowling Green TBA
Sat. 9/10TBA vs. Tulsa TBA
Sat. 9/17TBA at 5 Oklahoma TBA
Sat. 10/112:00 PM ET vs. Rutgers 12:00 PM ET
Sat. 10/8TBA vs. Indiana TBA
Sat. 10/158:00 PM ET at 21 Wisconsin 8:00 PM ET
Sat. 10/228:00 PM ET at Penn State 8:00 PM ET
Sat. 10/295:30 PM ET vs. 23 Northwestern 5:30 PM ET
Sat. 11/58:00 PM ET vs. Nebraska 8:00 PM ET
Sat. 11/12TBA at Maryland TBA
Sat. 11/19TBA at 6 Michigan State TBA
Sat. 11/26TBA vs. 12 Michigan TBA

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Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer

About Tom Dienhart: BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, and send him questions to his weekly mailbag.

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