A few things stand out when looking at the newest Ohio State football schedules for 2016 and '17 released this morning by the Big Ten.
The nine-game schedules – the first released by the league, which will expand its slate from eight league games in 2016 – show the first sign at how the Big Ten might rotate teams through from other divisions.
The Buckeyes will get Nebraska of the Western Division in both 2016 and ’17, with Wisconsin and Northwestern on the ’16 slate and Iowa and Illinois on the ’17 docket. The game in 2016 in Columbus will signify Nebraska’s return to the slate after three years off.
Ohio State will play neither Minnesota nor Purdue in ’16 or ’17, though Minnesota is on the ’14 and ’15 slates. Purdue is not, meaning this year’s trip to West Lafayette will be the Buckeyes’ last game against the Boilermakers for at least four years (which probably isn’t a bad thing to Ohio State fans, who remember the many close calls and losses the Buckeyes have had against the Boilers in Ross-Ade Stadium over the past decade or so).
It’s hard to judge schedules this far in advance, but the ’16 slate does not look easy. The Buckeyes have to go to Oklahoma, then after a week off will have nine straight Big Ten games. The crossover games against Nebraska, Wisconsin and Northwestern – assuming all three programs continue on their current trajectories – should be tough as well.
The 2017 docket is interesting for two reasons. First, Ohio State will begin the year Sept. 2 vs. Indiana. That’s some SEC-style scheduling right there – remember, Vanderbilt’s cancellation of their planned opener this August vs. Ohio State was so the Commodores could play an SEC home game – and something unique for the Big Ten. No other game in league play over the next four years is scheduled so early, but the league has said it’s not against such games to create an early buzz.
Also, per our Marcus Hartman, Ohio State last opened the season with a true road game in 1998 when the top-ranked Buckeyes won at West Virginia. The last time the Buckeyes faced a Big Ten team in their season opener? A 49-21 win over visiting Michigan State in 1976. That was the last of six years in a row the Buckeyes opened the season with a Big Ten opponent. They won all of those games and are 12-0 all-time when opening the season against a Big Ten team.
In addition, one thing that stands out from the ’17 slate is the word “at” six times. Ohio State has made it clear in the past that it needs at least seven home games to balance the budget, and in some seasons like 2012, it has had eight contests in Ohio Stadium.
Now, the Big Ten switching to a nine-game schedule means that seven will likely be the max each year in the future, but the current 2017 slate that includes six away games, five home games and one to-be-scheduled sure home game certainly raises eyebrows.
What does it mean? Either the ’17 game at North Carolina – part of a league-wide push to play more high-level nonconference opponents to improve the conference’s standing in the college football playoff race – will be rescheduled, or the Buckeyes are fine with the six home games.
Consider this: Ohio State nets about $5 million per home game, a nice chunk of change, but the Big Ten is slated to redo its television deal in time for the 2017 season. With Maryland and Rutgers joining and these deals mushrooming in scope seemingly every time they are renegotiated, perhaps the windfall from TV will cover any costs of a lost home game – and then some.
Either way, it bears watching.
2016 Ohio State Football Schedule
Sept. 3 - Bowling Green
Sept. 10 - Tulsa
Sept. 17 - at Oklahoma
Sept. 24 - Open Week
Oct. 1 - Rutgers
Oct. 8 - Indiana
Oct. 15 - at Wisconsin
Oct. 22 - at Penn State
Oct. 29 - Northwestern
Nov. 5 - Nebraska
Nov. 12 - at Maryland
Nov. 19 - at Michigan State
Nov. 26 - Michigan
Dec. 3 - Big Ten Championship Game
2017 Ohio State Football Schedule
Sept. 2 - at Indiana
Sept. 9 - TBA
Sept. 16 - Oklahoma
Sept. 23 - at North Carolina
Sept. 30 - at Rutgers
Oct. 7 - Maryland
Oct. 14 - at Nebraska
Oct. 21 - Open Week
Oct. 28 - Penn State
Nov. 4 - at Iowa
Nov. 11 - Michigan State
Nov. 18 - Illinois
Nov. 25 - at Michigan
Dec. 3 - Big Ten Championship Game
Note: An updated look at all future OSU schedules can always be found on the Schedule page on the dropdown menu on the Football tab above.