Ohio State tops most advanced statistical projections for 2015. ESPN's preseason FPI, Bill Connelly and Brian Fremeau's F/+, and Fremeau's FEI all have Ohio State in the top spot, while Connelly's S&P+ and Ed Feng's Power Rankings have the Buckeyes second. Further, most previews argue that Michigan State is the only team talented enough to truly give the Buckeyes a run for their money -- as Bill mentions, the Spartans are the only team on Ohio State's schedule that rank in the top 25 of the projected S&P+.
But are there any teams on Ohio State's 2015 schedule that are capable of pulling off a completely unexpected upset? "Trap game" has become a fairly meaningless term, but generally refers to a game where the favored team might be either looking ahead to a higher ranked opponent, coming off of a win against a tougher opponent, or simply faces a team that is underrated with particular matchup issues that might not be readily apparent.
So that eliminates Virginia Tech, a tough opponent that is 24th in the projected F/+ rankings, and Michigan, for obvious reasons. But are there any others on the schedule? Let's take a look.
Games after big games
Hawaii. The set up would be perfect for a trap game after facing Virginia Tech in the first game of the season. It's still early in the season, the Buckeyes will have just played a likely-physical game against the projected 24th-ranking Hokies in the F/+ rankings, and the quarterback situation may still be unsettled. But that's when the Buckeyes will go against likely the worst team on their schedule, Hawaii. At 106th in the F/+ projections, it would be an incredibly improbable upset for the Buckeyes to fall to the Rainbow Warriors. Their best win in 2014 came in a ten-point win over 113th F/+ ranked Wyoming.
Rutgers. Penn State is likely the most challenging game between Virginia Tech and Michigan State (36th in F/+, edging 44th-ranked Minnesota), and a trip to Rutgers falls immediately after the home date with the Nittany Lions. The Scarlet Knights are 87th in the projected F/+ rankings and lose longtime starting quarterback Gary Nova to graduation. Senior receiver Leonte Caroo is an explosive receiving threat, but it's unclear who will be throwing to him at this point. And don't expect the defense to be any better than last season's 87th overall S&P+ unit (107th defending explosive plays).
Games before big games
Maryland. The Terrapins are scheduled in an ideal situation against the Buckeyes. The follow a four-game cupcake streak for the Buckeyes where the toughest opponent is 65th-ranked (projected F/+) Western Michigan and immediately precede the Penn State game. Can Maryland catch the Buckeyes looking ahead? This might be the most interesting game of the potential upsets, as Maryland is a little more difficult to project. The Terps have an unsettled quarterback situation, lose their top two receivers, lose most of their front seven, and have a leading rusher who averaged 3.5 yards per carry and a 30% opportunity rate, but also have three freshman or redshirt freshman four- or five-star offensive linemen on the roster, explosive receiving talent with upside, and a veteran secondary. Given that last season's front seven was just 90th in adjusted line yards, it's fair to expect a ground-based offensive game plan for the Buckeyes, while the Ohio State front seven will still likely enjoy pressuring a young, if talented, Maryland offensive line. The Terps may be in an ideal situation schedule-wise to face the Buckeyes, but the stars would have to align for the Maryland offense for it to turn in to a trap game.
Penn State (36th projected F/+) and Minnesota (44th) will not be trap games, but they are the likely the fourth- and fifth-most difficult games on Ohio State's schedule. While these are certainly quality matchups for the Buckeyes (particularly against the Nittany Lions with their strong defense and, depending on whether his offensive line develops, Christian Hackenberg), they thankfully have buffer games against less-serious opponents around them (Maryland, Rutgers, and Illinois).
However, just writing this has probably cursed the Buckeyes to drop a game to Indiana, so take this as you will.