The potential storylines were all there. The triumphant return of former Ohio State coach turned university president Jim Tressel to the Shoe. Former Nebraska coach Bo Pelini tussling with the Buckeyes again. A feisty FCS program looking to reach their glory days again against the reigning national champs. Sure, a Youngstown State/Ohio State football game might not have been especially exciting as an actual game, but there would be plenty of off the field stuff to keep a fan interested for a little while. If Ohio State had to play an FCS program, you'd probably pick Youngstown State, right?
The Buckeyes aren't scheduled to play the Penguins again, and thanks to new Big Ten scheduling guidelines that go into effect in 2016, they probably won't be playing in the near future, as the conference has asked league teams to no longer play FCS programs. But it almost happened this season. Youngstown Vindicator writer Joe Scalzo tweeted this morning that Ohio State and Youngstown State were originally scheduled to play in 2015. A spokesman for Youngstown State football confirmed the report to Land-Grant Holy Land.
According to Scalzo, the Buckeyes had agreed to pay Youngstown State $750,000 for a game, but backed out in light of new Big Ten scheduling rules. Instead, the Penguins will play Pittsburgh to open the season, and will be paid $420,000. Ohio State will make up the difference to Youngstown State. The Youngstown State spokesman declined to comment as to why Ohio State did not play the scheduled game, and also did not know when the two schools originally agreed to play in 2015.
Big Ten scheduling rules would be a curious reason to not play the Penguins, as the FCS prohibition doesn't kick in until next season, and several Big Ten teams are playing FCS squads this season. It does seem probable that Ohio State would prefer to play an FBS program over an FCS one though, even if that FCS program has lots of Ohio State ties.
If I may be speculate for a second, considering that Ohio State was a bit behind the eight-ball in terms of 2015 scheduling, I suspect that Ohio State scheduled Youngstown State before they learned that getting additional FBS games would be possible. The Buckeyes were able to secure Western Michigan and Hawaii on Oct. 13, 2013, giving them a chance to help another school with Buckeye connections (former Hawaii AD Ben Jay is a former Buckeye) and give Ohio State a more compelling challenge on the field with WMU.
It's fun to think about, but in the end, it seems that no matter what the reasons were, this worked out for everybody. YSU gets their money and a fun FBS game to open the season, Ohio State gets some more competitive games as well.
It is fun to think about what could have been, though.