We already know which matchups will headline Ohio State’s 2019 schedule. Those matchups with the B1G bluebloods — Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and Wisconsin — are always the most anticipated games of the season in Columbus.
Those are the games that always receive primetime coverage.
And while those four matchups are always a concern for the Buckeyes, there are a few under-the-radar games that Ohio State should be prepared for this season. Especially when you consider that each of the last three years, the Buckeyes have dropped a game to an unsuspecting opponent. It was Penn State in 2016 (though that team went on to win the B1G), and 2017 it was Iowa. Last season, the Buckeyes dropped a road game to Purdue.
Here are three opponents on the Buckeyes’ schedule that could cause some problems this season:
vs. Cincinnati (Saturday, Sept. 7)
This is kind of the perfect storm, right? Luke Fickell spent 15 years on Ohio State’s staff in a defensive role, with one year as the interim head coach. He was the mastermind behind some really good defenses in Columbus, so if there’s anyone who can find a way to stop the Buckeyes’ high-powered offense, it’s Fickell.
Cincinnati returns several key pieces on a defense that allowed just 17.2 points per game last season, ranking eighth nationally. While there are some question marks on the defensive line, a loaded secondary could create problems for Ohio State’s passing attack, especially for an inexperienced quarterback like Justin Fields.
If that wasn’t enough, Cincinnati also returns leading rusher Michael Warren II, dual-threat quarterback Desmond Ridder and 2017 leading rusher Gerrid Doaks. Considering the issues Ohio State’s defense had last season, the Bearcats’ talented and experienced offense could also be an issue for the Buckeyes.
Ohio State hasn’t lost to an in-state opponent since 1921 (Oberlin), and hasn’t dropped a game to Cincinnati since 1897. While the Buckeyes have more talent on the field, Fickell and the Bearcats have the scheme and experience to give Ohio State a run for its money in Columbus in early September.
at Nebraska (Saturday, Sept. 28)
When this one kicks off, it may not be as much of an under-the-radar game for the Buckeyes. But since we haven’t seen Nebraska take a snap yet and it’s coming off a 4-8 campaign, it’s worthy to include this matchup on the list.
Nebraska visited Columbus last season just as it was starting to figure things out offensively, and the result was a pretty intriguing contest. The Buckeyes had enough offense to outlast the Huskers, winning 36-31. With elite talent on both offenses this season, we could have a shootout in Lincoln at the end of September.
Adrian Martinez, Wan’Dale Robinson, Dedrick Mills and JD Spielman will test the Ohio State defense and should be able to find the end zone pretty frequently. The big question? Can the Huskers’ defense slow down the Buckeyes’ offense?
This matchup sets up the perfect opportunity for Scott Frost to notch his first marquee win as the head coach in Lincoln. He returns one of the top quarterbacks in college football and gets home field advantage. The outcome could depend on which team has the ball last.
at Northwestern (Friday, Oct. 18)
A rematch of last year’s B1G Championship Game and Northwestern gets the benefit of playing in Evanston. OK, Ryan Field isn’t the most intimidating environment in college football — often overrun by opposing fans — but it’s better than playing in Columbus.
Northwestern hasn’t been much of a concern for some of the blueblood programs until recently. The Wildcats are 15-3 in regular season B1G games and are fresh off a division title. Yes, the ‘Cats lose a lot defensively and four-year starting quarterback Clayton Thorson, but under Pat Fitzgerald always fields a formidable defense and former five-star recruit Hunter Johnson will be taking snaps.
It’s not all that bad in Evanston.
With the game being played on a Friday night, both teams will have a free Saturday the week before the matchup, giving both sides ample time to game plan and rest, much like last year’s title game. That should set the scene for a fun mid-October contest.