- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Pac-12/Big Ten series wound up being just a flicker in Jim Delany's eye. But two of the highest-profile teams from those two leagues will still meet in a heavily-anticipated home-and-home series in the future.
OK, so perhaps it's hard to really anticipate two games that won't be played until 2020 and 2021. But Tuesday's announcement that Ohio State and Oregon will square off in Eugene and Columbus, respectively, in those causes excitement. Who wouldn't be jazzed about the prospect of two Top 10 teams with high-powered offenses coached by Chip Kelly and Urban Meyer, going head-to-head? Of course, whether or not either coach will still be there in eight and nine years is highly questionable. But it's fun to think about.
These are two of the most successful teams of the BCS era (an era which, thankfully, will be long dead by 2020). Ohio State has been to nine BCS games, while the Ducks have made four and could be headed to a fifth this year. The last time they met was the 2010 Rose Bowl, when Terrelle Pryor led the then-No. 8 Buckeyes to a 24-17 victory over the No. 7 Ducks.
This is the kind of matchup that we'd usually have to wait until bowl season to see. But Ohio State and athletic director Gene Smith deserve a lot of praise for beefing up his program's future nonconference schedules. This is just the latest announcement in a recent stretch where the Buckeyes agreed to home-and-home series with TCU (2018 and 2019) and Texas (2022 and 2023).
We wish those games would arrive sooner, and last week's premature cancellations by Vanderbilt show that no game is safe until it arrives. But Ohio State is making a strong effort here, which should not only entertain fans but give it a strength-of-schedule argument for inclusion in a four-team playoff. Several other Big Ten teams, including Wisconsin and Michigan State, are doing the same. (Minnesota, uh, not so much).
The school also announced that it had finalized its 2016 nonconference schedule by adding Tulsa (Sept. 10) and Central Michigan (Sept. 24). While those games are less thrilling, and CMU will be the second MAC opponent that season (Bowling Green is the opener), the Buckeyes do have a road game scheduled at Oklahoma that season (at Sept. 16).
The Oregon series may not help Ohio State as much in recruiting as Texas and TCU, because there aren't nearly as many high school prospects in the Pacific Northwest as there are in Texas. But the Ducks are a marquee program whose flashy style and uniforms catch recruits' eyes, so just playing this game could put Ohio State on some players' radar.
There's only one quibble we have with today's announcement: Can we please watch Oregon and Ohio State play now?
2hDavid Ching and Edward Aschoff
1dESPN Stats & Information