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Possible Ohio State football opponents for 2017

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With North Carolina off the board, the Buckeyes will be looking for two more games to fill out the slate. Here are some teams that need games then.

JUST SCHEDULE THEM ALREADY GEEZ
JUST SCHEDULE THEM ALREADY GEEZ
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

As you've probably heard, the home-and-home series between Ohio State and North Carolina has been canceled, thanks to complications with the Big Ten's nine-game league schedule. That leaves Ohio State with two openings in the 2017 schedule, one on Sept. 9, and one on Sept. 23, with a home game against Oklahoma sandwiched between the two. The Buckeyes also have an open date in 2018 on either Sept. 1 or Sept. 28, with a road trip to TCU scheduled on Sept. 15, 2018.

Ohio State says that a replacement will be named soon, but finding a good team for those spots is a little tricky. Typically, big name programs like Ohio State require at least seven home games a season, for both budgetary and competitive reasons. Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said that it might be possible for the Buckeyes to go to only six home games in 2017 (which was the case with UNC on the schedule), but that this would not be the norm. In order to have seven home games that year, every out of conference game would have to be at home.

It is possible for a big name to be added for both of these years (Alabama is free, after all), but I doubt it, at least for 2017. The Buckeyes will already likely have their hands full with Oklahoma, plus a big ten slate that includes a road trip to Nebraska and one to Iowa, along with a game against a Penn State squad free from sanctions, Michigan State and Michigan. Adding another A-list-er to that schedule might be too much.

My thinking is that in a perfect world, Ohio State would like to schedule one A list team, one competitive mid major or lower level Power 5 school (that won't require a return trip), and a lower level team. In 2017, they already have Oklahoma, so my hunch is that unless they're changing around some other scheduled games, they are likely to go after a good mid-tier team to supplement the Sooners.

I have no idea who the lower tier team might be, and you probably don't have a strong opinion as to whether that team is Georgia State or San Jose State. But we can make some educated guesses about who the 2nd team might be. Let's take a look at who has open dates, thanks to FBSchedules, and see who makes sense. Potential matchups are rated one to five stars.

BYU

Open: Sept. 23, 2017

If Ohio State is looking to fill their second game with a competitive squad that's outside of the Power 5, BYU could be an excellent fit, on the field. The Cougars are already booked with Utah on Ohio State's first open date of Sept. 9, but BYU has an open slot on the 23rd, right between scheduled games hosting Cal and a trip to Utah State. We know these two schools talked back in 2013 (when Vanderbilt canceled, a spot that eventually went to San Diego State), so perhaps they can work something out this time.

Also, I've been singlehandedly beating the drum for this game to happen for like, two years. Make the "Matt Brown Bowl" a reality, Ohio State.

Grade of potential matchup: Five stars

Houston

Open: Sept. 23, 2017

Per FBSchedules, the Cougars have a date at Arizona scheduled for the 9th, and a TBA game with Texas Tech. Houston fits the profile of what would be a productive second game, but Arizona, Texas Tech and Ohio State all in one season? That sounds like too much for Cougars.

Grade of potential matchup: One star

Ohio

Open: Sept. 9 or Sept. 23, 2017

The Bobcats have a history with Ohio State, have been a competent MAC program that is more than capable of providing a scare to the Buckeyes, and are open both dates on the 2017 schedule. Their only scheduled game right now is with Kansas, a team that shouldn't prevent the Bobcats from picking up another challenge from a big name school. Ohio State might not want the Bobcats as the second best game on the schedule, but they'd be a perfectly fine third school.

Grade of potential matchup: Three stars

SMU

Open: Sept. 23, 2017

The Ponies travel to TCU on the 16th, so a trip to Columbus the week after might be a little much, but SMU has played two road games out of conference before. Guessing who is going to be competitive in The American three years from now might be a crapshoot, but SMU has been at least bowl caliber. It isn't a sexy game, but depending on who gets the third spot on the schedule, it could be a perfectly fine one.

Grade of potential matchup: Two stars

Arkansas State

Open: Sept. 23, 2017 (probably)

The Red Wolves have been more than solid for the past three seasons, despite being a revolving door for head coaches, and that may continue in the Sun Belt. ASU has a home game with Miami (FL) on Sept. 9 and a road trip to UNLV currently TBA, so this might work schedule wise. Playing the Hurricanes and the Buckeyes in one season is a lot for a Sun Belt school, but the Red Wolves play USC and Missouri next season, and travel to Tennessee and Miami FL this year, so it isn't unprecedented. Forecasting how good a Sun Belt team is going to be in three seasons is tricky, but on paper, the Buckeyes could do worse.

Grade of potential matchup: Three stars

Tulane

Open: Sept. 9 or Sept. 23, 2017

The Green Wave had a road trip to Ole Miss on the 16th, and maybe trips to Oxford and Columbus would be out of the question. It's also worth questioning exactly how good Tulane is going to be, given their lack of a history in being a good football team, last year not withstanding. I think the press would prefer this became a home and home though, because who doesn't want to go visit New Orleans?

Grade of potential matchup: One star
Po' boys, on the other hand: Five stars

Oh hey you guys Vandy has an open date then too maybe we should ca---

Grade of potential matchup: Canceled by telegram

Possible Power 5 candidates

Maybe some P5 schools would be willing to make the trip to Columbus without a return game.

Wake Forest

No games scheduled for 2017 yet. Wake Forest hasn't been that good recently, but they have a new coach, and could be decent, but if you already play Florida State and Clemson every year, do you want to add a road trip to Ohio State on that list as well?

Oregon State

Open: Sept. 23

The Beavers have home games scheduled with Minnesota and Nevada the two weeks before, so a trip to Columbus isn't out of the question. This could be a fun battle to see who the *real* OSU is.

The pickings really are sort of slim. Toledo, Western Kentucky, Boise State, FAU, Air Force and East Carolina don't have room. Neither does Notre Dame, a team Gene Smith has specifically said he'd like to get on the schedule (although the Irish  could have room in 2018). UConn has an open date, but they already have a road game with Virginia in 2017. The Buckeyes already recently scheduled Northern Illinois, UCF, Tulsa and Bowling Green, which makes me think they're less likely as well.

Perhaps Ohio State can work something out that's out of the box, or changes some existing games. If they're committed to getting a good game within their existing framework though, I don't see a ton of great options. The Buckeyes ought to schedule BYU, and maybe a MAC team, and move on to building out 2018.