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Friday, August 9, 2013
Schedule analysis: Ohio State

By Brian Bennett

Preseason practice is in full swing, and kickoff is just around the corner. To get you ready, we're analyzing every Big Ten team's complete 2013 schedule.

Next up: Ohio State.

Nonconference opponents (with 2012 records)

Aug. 31: Buffalo (4-8)
Sept. 7: San Diego State (9-4)
Sept. 14: at California (3-9)
Sept. 21: Florida A&M (4-7)

Leaders Division games

Oct. 5: Wisconsin
Oct. 26: Penn State
Nov. 2: at Purdue
Nov. 16: at Illinois
Nov. 23: Indiana

Crossover games

Oct. 5: at Northwestern
Oct. 19: Iowa
Nov. 30: at Michigan

No plays

Michigan State

Gut-check game: The Buckeyes are likely to be favored in all of their games this season, with the possible exception of one: the season finale at Michigan. That also looks like by far the toughest road game and the most difficult environment Ohio State will see. If, and it's a big if, Urban Meyer's team is 11-0 heading into that game, the Wolverines and their fans will be foaming at the mouth to derail the Buckeyes' championship quest.

Trap game: Few possibilities really stand out here, but for whatever reason Purdue has given Ohio State a lot of trouble the past couple of years. This season, the game is in West Lafayette, coming on the heels of a stretch of big games. Surely the Buckeyes won't take Purdue lightly, but the Boilers could be playing with nothing to lose and looking to make a big statement under first-year coach Darrell Hazell.

Snoozer: Florida A&M is getting $900,000 to take a beating at the Horseshoe. Those who watch the whole thing should probably also get paid.

Noncon challenge: Cal stands out because it's a Pac-12 team and Ohio State has to go to Berkeley, but the San Diego State game might be even tougher. The Aztecs return 16 starters off a team that won nine games and a share of the Mountain West title last season. They like to run the ball a lot and will challenge the Buckeyes' inexperienced front seven.

Telltale stretch: The first two conference games are key for Ohio State. If the Buckeyes beat Wisconsin, then they will already hold the major upper hand for the Big Ten title game berth since Penn State is still ineligible. The road trip to Northwestern is potentially the most daunting one of the season besides Michigan. If Ohio State wins both of those games, it should have relatively smooth sailing until Thanksgiving weekend.

Analysis: Ohio State is being talked about as a national title contender not just because of its talent, which is impressive enough, but also because of this schedule. The nonconference slate is mostly nonthreatening, though San Diego State and Cal could prove to be more than minor annoyances. Wisconsin and Penn State, the Buckeyes' top two threats in the Leaders, both have to come to Columbus. Even the Northwestern trip doesn't seem that intimidating, since there likely will be a large contingent of Scarlet and Gray at Ryan Field. We shouldn't assume Meyer's team will simply cruise through the schedule, because there will be bumps in the road. On the other hand, it's hard to make a really strong case for any of the first 11 teams beating the Buckeyes. The downside, if there is one for Ohio State, is that it likely has to go undefeated to have a serious national title shot since there won't be any marquee out-of-league victories on the résumé.

More schedule analysis

Legends: Iowa | Michigan | Minnesota | Nebraska

Leaders: Purdue | Penn State | Illinois