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Column: Ohio State’s most intriguing out-of-conference matchups

Plus, happy adoption day, Ruthie!

NCAA Football: Alamo Bowl-Utah vs Texas Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Today happens to be my dog’s adoption day, so happy “birthday,” Ruthie! Sports are one of the best things ever, and dogs probably are the best ever, so putting these two together makes for some pretty tremendous happiness. Anyway, here’s a pic of my dog repping her favorite bandanas. Enjoy!

Okay, so it’s been a minute, but in my column from July 6 (a moment, perhaps, when I was more optimistic about having a college football season), we started parsing out the ideal conferences for out of conference matchups in the hopes of getting to the ideal out-of-conference opponent for Ohio State. That thought came out of a column from Brett Ludwiczak on the top matchups the Buckeyes have never had. Those matchups are headlined by Georgia Tech, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Iowa State.

(Unrelated, I still find it shocking Ohio State hasn’t played Iowa State. I guess I just associate our win in the 2013 NCAA Tournament as being encompassing of all sports. Thanks, Aaron Craft!)

To recap the conference discussion: IMHO, the Pac-12 offers the best opportunity, in terms of historical panache and a comparatively different style of play than what we see week-in and week-out in the Big Ten. The SEC, meanwhile, is irksome in every way, and that’s coming from a self-proclaimed annoying Ohio State fan.

Given the Big Ten’s announcement this month that the football season would be limited to conference play only, the point of this article is entirely moot. But hey, we’ve got to have all our ducks in a row for when we get a COVID-19 vaccine and hopefully have a 2021 college football season...assuming the inherent economics of the system don’t cause widespread, irreversible collapse before then.

Alright, enough of me being a Negative Nancy. Back to the question at hand: Who are the best out-of-conference matchups for the Buckeyes?

Since there are 130 FBS teams, I’ll continue to take the conference-by-conference approach:

ACC

The most frequent opponent for Ohio State in the ACC happens to be Pitt, over whom the Buckeyes hold a 19-5-1 advantage. But the Panthers are certainly not top of the list in the ACC as a future non-conference matchup for the Buckeyes.

Who is? Obviously the revenge tour (which will be something of a theme here) would be great to allow Ohio State to overcome its deficits to Clemson (0-4) and Florida State (0-3). Louisville and NC State, over whom the Buckeyes hold 2-0 marks, would be cool to see in certain years as well (imagine watching Lamar Jackson vs. Nick Bosa).

Big 12

While there are several intriguing matchups coming out of the Big 12 — including two that Ohio State has had home-and-homes with in recent memory (Oklahoma and Texas) — West Virginia and TCU happen to be the most common opponents for the Buckeyes. Ohio State holds a 5-1-1 record over the Horned Frogs, its most recent win coming in 2018, and 5-1-0 mark over the Mountaineers.

That being said, Texas has to be the most intriguing opponent from the Big 12 — now more than ever, in fact. First, the Longhorns are the only Big 12 team that the Buckeyes have a losing record against (1-2). Evening up that score is a tremendous value prop for Ohio State. Then there’s the fact Tom Herman, former offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach under Urban Meyer at Ohio State, is head coach at Texas. Finally, Texas, like Ohio State, is one of the biggest college football brands in the nation with one of the most prominent and, I’ll say it again, annoying fan bases in the sport. Plus, the Buckeyes already have a home-and-home scheduled for 2025-26 with Texas, so I’ll take that as confirmation that I’m right.

Pac-12

As alluded to above, the Pac-12 presents probably the best conference worth of opponents for Ohio State. Frankly, there are few Pac-12 teams that wouldn’t be exciting opponents to watch (Oregon State being one of them). But between USC, Stanford, Oregon, Utah, Arizona State, Washington and others, the Buckeyes have a laundry list of opponents whom they’ve mainly faced in bowl games, but who would be cool in week one or two, too.

The Buckeyes hold their best record over Oregon (9-0), and yet the Ducks still offer a unique matchup for Ohio State whenever they face off. The only two teams Ohio State has losing records against, USC (10-13-1) and Stanford (2-3), are squads that the Buckeyes could certainly go on a revenge tour against.

SEC

Okay, here goes the list I care least about top-to-bottom. The Buckeyes hold losing records against six SEC teams (Auburn, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, Florida and Georgia), but the biggest margin is just two games. So it would be great to rectify these records, but I also have zero desire to deal with Tennessee fans (even though their dog is super cute) or traveling to the state of Alabama.

That being said, there is an obvious buzz around the Buckeyes’ home-and-home against Bama, scheduled for 2027 and 2028. And yeah, despite what I just said...I’m looking forward to it.

Non-Power-5

Where to begin here, because there are actually some exciting teams outside the Power-5 who have proven chippy in the past and who remain interesting matchup possibilities looking forward. As Brett mentioned, Boise State, a team Ohio State has never faced in program history, has been a killer of giants en route to the Broncos transforming almost into giants themselves. My personal favorite Boise State moment (and probably everyone else’s) was the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, when the Broncos stuck it to Oklahoma in overtime on a Statue of Liberty, after which the tailback Ian Johnson proposed to his girlfriend. All the feels.

But then there’s UCF, whom Ohio State has only faced once — a win in 2012. The Golden Knights have been getting pretty darn close to Boise State’s level in recent years, culminating in their 2018 Peach Bowl win over Auburn. UCF has won the American Athletic Conference two of the last three seasons, and presents a stronger opponent from the AAC than, say, Cincinnati.

Independents

Okay, I could have lumped this group in with the non-Power-5 group, but just wanted to explicitly say that Notre Dame doesn’t count. The Buckeyes hold a 4-2 record over the Irish, their most recent wins coming in 2006 and 2016 Fiesta Bowls. Note that Notre Dame’s last win over Ohio State came in 1936. They should just join a conference already. Maybe a season where they’re shut out of competition when the rest of the major players stick to conference-only play will motivate them to do so.

On that note, bye for now.