Ohio State has been a national power in the college football landscape for quite some time now. The Buckeyes have appeared in the AP Top 25 poll at some point or another during the year in every single season since 1968. A quick look at the 247Sports Talent Composite since its inception in 2015 would show OSU among the top-five schools in terms of pure talent every year, appearing in the top-three in each year except 2016. The program has won a pair of national titles since the turn of the century. All that being said, you would think a dominant team like Ohio State would really show off that dominance at home, correct?
Well, sorta. The Buckeyes, for the most part, have excelled against Big Ten opponents at Ohio Stadium. They have not lost an in-conference game in Columbus since Michigan State in 2015 — a sad, soggy game in which I was unfortunately in attendance during my time as a student. They have had a handful of close calls since then, winning an ugly 24-20 contest against Northwestern and a 30-27 2OT win over Michigan in 2016, as well as a miraculous come-from-behind 39-38 victory over Penn State in 2017. Still, not all too many other games have been close within the friendly confines.
That is, until you look outside of the conference. It isn’t all too frequent that we see premier out-of-conference opponents make the trip to Columbus, but when they have, it has not gone well for Ohio State. Traveling backwards through time, the Buckeyes three biggest home matchups over the last decade have been: Oregon (2021), Oklahoma (2017) and Virginia Tech (2014) — all losses for Ohio State, with two of the three being by more than one score. During that same span, the Buckeyes have not exactly racked up the big Ws, with arguably the most notable win coming against a G5 team in Cincinnati (2019) before they had reached their peak.
Oddly enough, during that same timeframe, Ohio State has picked up a number of impressive wins away from home. We know what the Buckeyes did in the inaugural College Football Playoff against both Alabama and Oregon at neutral sites. They won true road games against Virginia Tech (2015) and Oklahoma (2016) in convincing fashion as well as a neutral site contest against TCU (2018). Most recently, they dominated Clemson in the 2020 Sugar Bowl and defeated Utah in a banger at the 2021 Rose Bowl. However, the standout wins for Ohio State have simply not come on their field.
In fact, you have to go all the way back to 2010 to find Ohio State’s last marquee home win against a team outside of the Big Ten, when they defeated Miami (FL) 36-24. Looking deeper into that one, though, while the Hurricanes may have been No. 12 in the country coming into that contest, they would go on to finish the year with a 7-6 record and were not a particularly good team. Traveling further back in time, you will find another pair of marquee matchups resulting in home losses for Ohio State against both USC (2009) and Texas (2005), and to find another big home win — unless you want to count Washington in 2003 — you would have to go all the way back to 1995, when the Buckeyes defeated Notre Dame, 45-26.
Which brings us full circle. This season, Ohio State’s schedule will once again feature one of those marquee home non-conference matchups when they host those very same Fighting Irish to open the year on Sept. 3. As outlined, the Buckeyes have not faired particular well in these types of games, but it is imperative for Ryan Day and his program that they emerge victorious this time around. While a loss to Notre Dame would not derail Ohio State’s season in any way, as an undefeated run through the Big Ten would almost certainly still put them into the CFP, there is immense extrinsic value against this particular opponent, especially in recruiting.
This will obviously be a massive opportunity for program building. With the game being announced as a 7:30 p.m. kick on ABC, Ohio State will no doubt have a ton of their top targets in attendance to take in what should be an electric atmosphere under the lights. With the Buckeyes and the Irish recruiting in largely the same territories and fighting over many of the same prospects, a win in this game could provide some big wins in both the 2023 and 2024 classes as Ryan Day looks to continue to lock down the region. With it also being Marcus Freeman’s first game as Notre Dame’s head coach, it is imperative that Ohio State doesn’t let him start his tenure with some outstanding momentum.
External factors aside, it would be nice for Ohio State to buck the trend of not being able to win these marquee matchups at home. It’s a known fact that Ohio Stadium isn’t exactly conducive to producing the most menacing road environment for the visiting team, but it would be hard to imagine the crowd not getting up for this game given the opponent, kickoff time, and the amount of high expectations for this year’s Buckeye squad. Ohio State should be one of the best teams in the country in 2022, and they must get things off on the right foot with their fifth-straight win over the Fighting Irish.