The Big Ten announced the first two years of its nine-game conference schedule for football yesterday, and 2016 and ’17 will pose interesting challenges for Ohio State.
The 2016 conference schedule looks to be particularly rugged, with the Buckeyes playing all of the teams that are regularly in championship contention. After opening with home games against Rutgers and Indiana, the Buckeyes will play at Wisconsin and at Penn State. That’s followed by home games against Northwestern and Nebraska. After a trip to Maryland, the Buckeyes finish with a game at Michigan State and the finale against Michigan. There are no off weeks once Big Ten play starts.
In 2017, the Buckeyes open on Sept. 2 at Indiana. It will be the first time since 1976 against Michigan State that they will play a conference game for their opener.
Ohio State’s next Big Ten game in 2017 will be Sept. 30 at Rutgers. The Buckeyes then play Maryland and at Nebraska before a bye. Ohio State follows with a home game against Penn State, Iowa on the road, Michigan State and Illinois at home and the finale at Michigan.
The marquee nonconference opponent in 2016 and ’17 is Oklahoma. The Buckeyes go on the road in 2016 before playing the Sooners in Ohio Stadium in 2017.
Martin Jarmond, executive associate athletic director for scheduling, said the Indiana opener was the Big Ten’s idea. He said the conference asked the league’s athletic directors if they had an issue with scheduling a league game as an opener, and Ohio State didn’t.
“It’s something Gene (Smith, athletic director) and Urban (Meyer, coach) talked about,” Jarmond said. “If the league wants you going in that direction, it’s something we were open to. We don’t get to dictate it.”
The Buckeyes will also play Bowling Green and Tulsa as nonconference opponents in 2016. In 2017, they will play at North Carolina. Ohio State is still looking for a third nonconference opponent in 2017. Jarmond said he is hoping to reach a deal with an opponent comparable to San Diego State. The Buckeyes are playing the Aztecs this season as a replacement for Vanderbilt, which canceled its agreement.