By now you’ve surely heard that the Big Ten has cancelled all of it’s non-conference matchups for the 2020 season in favor of a conference-only schedule. This eliminates a bunch of marquee early-season contests for some of the B1G’s top schools, including Ohio State’s matchup with Oregon in Week 2 and Michigan’s trip to Washington in the opener.
While some have criticized the conference’s decision, it is absolutely the right move. People are quick to point to schools like Rutgers and Maryland being outside the geographic region of the Big Ten as a knock on the change. However, while limiting travel is a function of the conference-only schedule, it is not the main goal. The No. 1 reason is to allow for full autonomy. The Big Ten will now be able to make sure that every school is abiding by the same rules and guidelines in regards to health and safety, as well as allowing for easy schedule changes should problems arise.
Which brings us to today’s question: What exactly will a conference-only schedule look like? With the way things are currently going in this country, it’s optimistic to say the least that football will be played at all in 2020, but we’ll humor the notion anyway. Ohio State currently has nine Big Ten opponents on their schedule, but according to athletic director Gene Smith, the hope is that each team will play at least 10 games.
Gene Smith said he is hopeful the Big Ten will play a 10-game conference football schedule. “We've talked about that. That's our preference.”— Dan Hope (@Dan_Hope) July 9, 2020
To keep things fair, it would make sense that each team gets to play five home games and five away games. For that to happen, each team in the East would have to add a road contest against a team from the West, which would in turn give all 14 teams in the Big Ten an even split of home/road games.
With all that being said, let’s try to create Ohio State’s new 2020 football schedule.
Week 1: Ohio State vs. Michigan
I know the purists are going to HATE this one, but just hear me out. Not a single part of this college football season is guaranteed. At any given moment, the entire season could be shut down with no plans to return. Wouldn’t it make sense to get the most important game of the year out of the way at the very beginning? On a 10-game schedule, even if the Michigan game was to be saved for the last game of the year, it almost certainly would not fall on Thanksgiving weekend anyway— especially given the school’s altered academic calendar.
Sign me up for The Game in Week 1. Send Harbaugh to 0-6 against the Buckeyes on a warm, sunny day in early September at Ohio Stadium.
Week 2: Ohio State at Maryland
Now I know this kind of goes against my ‘play the important games early’ notion, but I think Ohio State would need somewhat of a buffer game between Michigan and the other big matchups on the schedule. Maryland isn’t quite as bad as Rutgers, but it is certainly a game that would be much less taxing both physically and mentally than the Wolverines the week prior. Mike Locksley is doing a pretty good job at turning the Terrapins around, but they are not nearly an elite competitor in the B1G just yet.
Week 3: Ohio State at Penn State
The Buckeyes will take on the Nittany Lions in Week 3, having now played their two biggest Big Ten foes in the first three weeks of the season. Even if COVID-19 causes the cancellation of the season before we even get to October, we will have at least gotten to see Justin Fields take down Ohio State’s two toughest competitors one last time. Penn State always seems to play OSU incredibly tough, and Ryan Day’s squad will be at least a little thankful to not have to play in front of the white-out crowd in Happy Valley (although the Bucks are 3-1 in Beaver Stadium since 2012).
Week 4: Ohio State vs. Indiana
Ohio State then returns home to continue playing the rest of its games versus the Big Ten East, beginning with the Hoosiers. A healthy Michael Penix travels to Ohio Stadium for what is usually a close game — at least through two quarters. Indiana has been getting better as of late under Tom Allen, last year putting together their first eight-win season since 1993. The Buckeyes will likely be heavy favorites heading into the contest, but could be tested coming off a potentially emotional game against PSU. It’ll also provide a break in away games before yet another important road matchup.
Week 5: Ohio State at Michigan State
The Buckeyes will then travel to East Lansing to take on Michigan State for the first time under new head coach Mel Tucker. Ohio State has won its last four meetings against the Spartans, with the most recent loss being that fateful day in 2015. OSU has actually not lost a game at Spartan Stadium since 1999, when John Cooper was at the helm facing off against a little-known head football coach by the name of Nick Saban. Depending on how well Tucker’s tenure at MSU starts, this could be a more competitive game than it has been of late.
Week 6: Ohio State vs. Rutgers
The Big Ten would probably like to make sure they get all the games between division opponents in as soon as possible to make it easier to determine the conference championship game, which means Ohio State would play its last game against the B1G East in Week 6 against Rutgers. There is really no other reason to try and sell this matchup to you. Greg Schiano at the helm or not, the Scarlet Knights have no shot at knocking off the Buckeyes anytime soon, and will serve as nothing more as a midseason tuneup before diving into the games against team’s from the West.
Week 7: Ohio State vs. Notre Dame (neutral) OR Ohio State at Wisconsin
Now hear me out. I understand that the whole point of this exercise is a conference-only schedule, of which Notre Dame is obviously not included. However, the Fighting Irish do not have a conference themselves to play in, and while they will likely play within the ACC due to prior contractual obligations, they are geographically within Big Ten territory. As long as the school agreed to adhere to all of the conference’s stipulations heading into the week of the game, who wouldn’t want to see Ohio State take on Notre Dame in the Coronavirus Bowl presented by CVS Pharmacy?
The less fun but still very tasty option would be a road matchup against Wisconsin. As previously mentioned, Ohio State would need to add a B1G West opponent to even out the schedule, and who better than the division’s usual top dog? I suppose you could also put Minnesota in this spot instead, but the Buckeyes are already scheduled to play a road contest against the Golden Gophers in 2021, and so it is the Badgers who should play host to the Buckeyes in Week 7 if ND is off the table. I’m sure Jack Coan is excited to see Josh Proctor again.
Week 8: Ohio State vs. Iowa
Ohio State then continues on with its previously scheduled Big Ten West matchups, which includes a rematch against Iowa — this time in Ohio Stadium. While few players remain from the Buckeyes’ team that got manhandled in Iowa City, I'm sure the boys are itching to get back in the win column against the Hawkeyes. Ryan Day was just a co-offensive coordinator at OSU when that dreadful upset occurred, and he would love to avenge that stunning loss that kept his team out of the playoffs in 2017.
Week 9: Ohio State at Illinois
What will serve as Ohio State’s final road matchup of the season, the Buckeyes will travel to Champagne to take on Illinois. The contest against the Illini was already set up as the team’s second-to-last game of the season on the original schedule, and it winds up in the same spot on the new docket. OSU can’t take this matchup lightly, as we saw what happened when the Badgers did not give Lovie Smith’s group the respect they deserved in 2019. With no crowd on their side to help aid in a potential upset, Ohio State should still be able to roll right into their final game of the year.
Week 10: Ohio State vs. Purdue
The last opponent on Ohio State’s schedule is actually Nebraska, but I've changed it to Purdue because it’s my schedule and I can do what I want. The Buckeyes could put together their own mini revenge tour at the end of the 2020 season, albeit one that would probably go better than the one attempted by the team in maize and blue. After already getting their rematch against Iowa, Ryan Day gets to take down Purdue as he avenges Ohio State’s two most embarrassing losses of the last few years. Plus, we get to see Rondale Moore one more time before he’s off to the NFL — hopefully, however, with better coverage this time around.
So there you have it. Five home games and five road games (with a potential neutral site against Notre Dame) to round out Ohio State’s 2020 schedule. What do you think? How do you want the Buckeyes’ schedule to shake out this season? Are there any opponents from the West you’d really like to see the team play this year? Let us know in the comments!