All I Want For Ohio State Football Schedules? Better Non-Conf Opponents

Belated Merry Christmas wishes to any and all Ohio State fans who may be reading this post. Sincere hopes that all of you have the happiest of holiday seasons.


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.

Close your eyes, and think of a schedule that reads like this…“Ohio State opens up on the road in Paul Brown Stadium, kicking off the XXXX season as the guest of the Miami University RedskinsHawks. Ohio State returns home to face ACC member Pittsburgh, then finishes up their non-conference slate against Tennessee, before B1G competition begins the following week…”

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.


  1. So…this is isn’t how scheduling works at all.

    First, you guys forgot that Ohio State is almost completely scheduled out for the next few years. Oklahoma, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas and TCU are some of the major names on OSU’s slates over the next few years, occasionally two in the same year, along with Cincinnati and Boston College. After 2015, there are only a handful of openings over the next decade.

    Also, the financial reality is that Ohio State must play 7 home games a season. With the move to a 9 game schedule, that means Ohio State can only play one road conference game every other season. Those road games are already spoken for from now until 2024. The Buckeyes can’t afford to consistently play fewer than 7, since the money is needed to support non-revenue sports, AND local businesses in Columbus (which is why Smith is loath to schedule OC games at neutral sites).

    Because of those circumstances, getting Louisville, or Tennessee, or Missouri, or even Georgia Tech, to fill in those gaps is going to be almost impossible. None of them are going to be willing to come to Columbus without a return game. I know for a fact that Ohio State and Louisville have discussed games over the last few years, and discussions had fallen apart for that exact reason.

    The 2015 schedule is relatively poor because UNC was previously scheduled to be one of the games, but had to be moved back to accommodate the 9 game B1G schedule, leaving OSU’s administration to quickly scramble after most good programs had already made commitments for 2015. Hawaii was also scheduled as a favor to Ben Jay, Hawaii’s AD, who had worked with Ohio State for years.

    You can see the full list for committed games in the future here. On paper, it looks quite solid. Scheduling is a tricky business issue that must be tackled years in advance, and there are a ton of variables that must be considered because just geography and “who might be good”.

    • Matt: Good to hear from you. Hope all is well with you.

      Yes, I agree that this is not how scheduling works. But I also believe you would agree that Ohio State’s future schedules are lacking. It is great that Oregon, Texas, Oklahoma, etc, are on future schedules. I have not forgotten…but overall, the potential strength of schedule components could play an impact upon Ohio State’s inclusion within the playoff structure that will begin in 2014.

      Yes, I understand that favors were cashed in 2015 with Hawaii. I would simply argue that favors to Ben Jay of Hawaii, or any other administrator, will ring quite hollow with members of the playoff committee when other programs have a stronger strength of schedule in 2015 and beyond. Scheduling SEC teams that are within geographic proximity of Ohio State, or teams of the Big 12 such as West Virginia and Louisville, make more long-term competitive sense.

      Again, thanks for the comments. Best wishes for a Happy New Year in 2014.

  2. Best wishes to you as well Chip.

    I’d probably agree that the 2015 slate isn’t ideal. To be fair, Hawaii and Western Michigan may be breaking in new coaches by then (I would be SHOCKED if Norm Chow is still coaching there after next season), so some improvement wouldn’t be out of the question. NIU has been a double digit win squad that has competed around the Top 40 area for the past five years (better than Iowa State, Kentucky, UVA, most seasons of Duke, etc). It’s probably not a great slate, but it isn’t impossible to see providing some value, especially if Virginia Tech is good.

    But really, I can’t see the difference between a bad Western Michigan team and a mostly bad Iowa State team to really change the playoff committee’s mind. Making that swap really doesn’t change the computer scores that much either.

    I believe the only team on your list that had an open date in 2015 was Kentucky, who I imagine would have been unlikely to accept a “Columbus Only” schedule date, given that they are already locked in with Louisville AND have a very demanding SEC slate. I think Ohio State could be forgiven for being a little hesitant in dealing with the bottom of the SEC for a on-off, after the Vandy debacle this season.

    But other than 2015? I don’t have any complaints. Next year’s features three probably bowl teams, and two that project to compete for either division or conference titles (Va Tech and Cincinnati). 2016 has Oklahoma, a Tulsa squad that has been historically strong over the last several years (except this year), and BGSU. After that, its Oklahoma and UNC, then TCUs, Cincinnatis, Oregons, etc.

    • I agree completely on 2015 that it looks bad, which is the primary motivation for the post in the first place. 2016, if I could swap out Tulsa for a team from a traditional power conference (SEC, Big 12), I would be happier.

      Overall, if Ohio State could increase its non-conference to having at least two strong non-conf opponents versus one, I would be feeling more confident going into a playoff system. With the playoff committee members publicly stating that strength of schedule will be key, and the system in place for the next twelve years, I would hope Ohio State would be open to beefing up their schedules beyond what they have done up until this point.

      As always, thanks again for all of your perspective and comments. Have a Happy New Year.

  3. One of the few things I hate about college football (not just OSU related) is the fact that a lot of the games played every week are terrible matchups and absolute blowouts. Look at FSU, Alabama, OSU, Oregon etc…

    Most of these games are laughers.

    Hell, there were plenty of OSU fans upset after wins…because the margin of victory wasn’t big enough. It’s like a fat cat wall street exec complaining about his 2 million dollar bonus…because it should have been bigger.

    I’d love for D1 football to eliminate about 60 of the teams…make 4 large conferences, and properly weight all the schedules. It really wouldn’t be that hard. The product on the field would be instantly improved.

  4. Here is another idea…every team gets to schedule their opener. So, Ohio State could schedule a MAC team, Alabama could schedule Troy, etc. Then for weeks 2 and 3, it would be a lottery system. So Ohio State could draw Alabama for a home game in week 2, and maybe at West Virginia in week 3. The following year, Ohio State would need to go to Alabama, then would host West Virginia. It would eliminate the scheduling issues you and I have been discussing, while also beefing up everyone else’s schedules.

    Regarding your idea of consolidation…I have a feeling that will be happening soon. The haves and have nots are becoming even more apparent, and with the new system, it will probably drive more teams out of D1, because of financial inequalities.

  5. sportsMonkey says

    OSU is one of the few schools that pioneered marquee non conference matchups. USC, ND, and TX also get props for doing what most schools won’t. It’s not just wanting to play good schools; it’s that good schools are generally afraid to do this. For instance, Florida hasn’t played an out-of-state non-conference opponent in 20 yrs! They simply refuse to leave Florida. Alabama agreed to play UM and PSU, but only after the teams had a few years in decline and suffered coaching changes.

    The B1G and the PAC12 are the only conferences honestly looking for times and opportunities. Smaller schools will often claim that they have tried, but those are often accompanied by ridiculous demands for affordances, e.g., no home-and-home, or sky-high payouts, etc.

    Agree totally with Kade. What’s really needed is a new division, not unlike the Division 1/2 separation that occurred about 40 or so yrs ago. Cull the top 40-50 programs and put them into it. Divide by four. Leave the bowl system intact for the 80-90 that got left behind.

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