2017 football schedule analysis: Ohio State Buckeyes

2017 football schedule analysis: Ohio State Buckeyes

Ohio State made the playoff for the second time in three years last season. But the Buckeyes want more in 2017. OSU didn’t win the Big Ten last year. Heck, the Buckeyes didn’t even win the East Division. But Ohio State still landed a playoff berth—and then got embarrassed by Clemson.

The Buckeyes are looking to forget that bad memory and get back on top of the Big Ten in 2017. Many of the key players are back, led by senior quarterback J.T. Barrett and sophomore running back Mike Weber, along with the makings of a boffo defensive line led by senior end Tyquan Lewis and junior Sam Hubbard. Urban Meyer and Co., have work to do. Challenges loom.

Here is a look at Ohio State’s 2017 schedule.

Toughest non-conference game: The visit from Oklahoma for the second game of the season on Sept. 9 should be a doozy. The Buckeyes won last season in Norman, 45-24, so you know OU will be stoked for payback. Adding intrigue is the fact former Sooner offensive coordinator and Indiana coach Kevin Wilson is in his first season as Ohio State’s OC. So, a week after he faces the Hoosiers (on a Thursday) in the season opener, he takes on Oklahoma and former boss Bob Stoops.

Toughest conference game: There are some tough road games, including trips to Nebraska and Iowa. But let’s go with the season-ending visit to Michigan for “The Game.” Ohio State continues to dominate this series, winning five in a row and 12 of 13. Last year’s 30-27 double OT win by OSU in Columbus was epic and left Jim Harbaugh fuming. The last Wolverine triumph vs. the Buckeyes? In 2011 in Ann Arbor.

Who they don’t play: The Buckeyes miss Purdue, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Northwestern. Ohio State gets a break missing the Badgers and Wildcats, who both are legit contenders in the West.

Easiest game: Let’s go with Army’s visit to the Horseshoe on Sept. 16, the first meeting between these schools. The Black Knights have some mojo under Jeff Monken, coming off an 8-5 season, a bowl win and their first win vs. Navy since 2001. The visit from UNLV the next week on Sept. 23 also should be a breeze, as the Rebels have been to just two bowls since 1994. UNLV has just one winning season (2013) since 2000. Ohio State never has played the Rebels.

Toughest stretch: The Buckeyes have a rugged three-game run from Oct. 14-Nov. 4 when they play at Nebraska, vs. Penn State and at Iowa. This will be the Buckeyes’ first trip to Lincoln since 2011, when NU won 34-27. Ohio State has won the last two vs. Nebraska in dominating fashion, taking a 62-3 decision last year in Columbus and a 63-38 outcome in 2012 in Columbus. Last year, the Nittany Lions were the only team to beat Ohio State in the regular season, shocking the No. 2 Buckeyes 24-21 after Grant Haley ran back a blocked field goal 60 yards for the winning TD late in the fourth quarter. Before that, OSU had won four in a row vs. PSU. Iowa and OSU haven’t met since 2013. Ohio State has won the last five meetings. The Hawkeyes’ last win? A 33-7 romp in Iowa City in 2004. Before that, Iowa hadn’t toppled the Buckeyes since 1991.

Best chance to be upset: Ohio State figures to be favored when Oklahoma visits. But the Sooners could leave the Horseshoe with a win. No doubt, OU wants revenge after losing at home in 2016 to the Buckeyes. And having QB Baker Mayfield back is a boon to the Sooners’ hopes. This will be Oklahoma’s first trip to Columbus since 1977, when it won 29-28 in the first meeting ever between the giants. Sooner kicker Uwe Von Schamann drilled a 41-yard field goal in the final seconds to deliver OU to victory.

Best chance to pull an upset: Ohio State will likely be favored in every game this season. But, the Buckeyes may be underdogs for the finale at Michigan. So much could be on the line in that game at the Big House. Maybe the Big Ten East title? Maybe a possible playoff berth? Who knows? No doubt, the Wolverines will be motivated to end their misery vs. the Buckeyes, going 1-12 in the last 13 meetings vs. Ohio State.

Must win: For Ohio State to win the East and get a shot to win the Big Ten and earn a possible second playoff bid in succession, it needs to win at home. And no home game is bigger than the visit from Penn State on October 28. You know the Buckeyes have that tilt circled in red, wanting to pay back the Nittany Lions for last season. Penn State last won in Columbus in 2011, taking a 20-14 decision. The Nittany Lions lost 63-14 and 38-10 in its last two visits to Ohio State.

Bye week: This comes after seven games, so the timing is nice. Ohio State can catch its breath coming off a game at Nebraska. And the off week will allow the Buckeyes extra prep time for that big home game vs. Penn State in what could be a de facto Big Ten East title clash.

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2017 OHIO STATE SCHEDULE
Aug. 31 at Indiana (Thursday)
Sept. 9 Oklahoma
Sept. 16 Army
Sept. 23 UNLV
Sept. 30 at Rutgers
Oct. 7 Maryland
Oct. 14 at Nebraska
Oct. 21 OFF
Oct. 28 Penn State
Nov. 4 at Iowa
Nov. 11 Michigan State
Nov. 18 Illinois
Nov. 25 at Michigan

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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