Ranking Ohio State’s 2024 opponents by difficulty

As teams head into the summer holidays and eye up training camp, now is the perfect time to take a closer look at some of the top schedules across the country. It should come as no surprise that Ohio State’s schedule is of particular interest, as the Buckeyes are among the favorites in national championship odds.

With great opportunities come high expectations, but that’s nothing new around Columbus. The expectations at Ohio State are always to win the B1G and compete for a national title, and that’s especially true after a disappointing three-year stretch for the program.

Despite talent-rich rosters each season, Ryan Day has lost three straight games to Michigan and hasn’t captured the conference title since 2020. Now the pressure is at an all-time high after a period of changes this offseason, including the addition of Chip Kelly to the coaching staff and several ultra-elite transfers.

So, which opponents have a chance to beat Ohio State, and which games should be relatively easy for the Buckeyes this fall? Here’s an in-depth look at the schedule throughout the season, ranked from easiest opponents to toughest.

vs. Akron (August 31); vs. Western Michigan (September 7); vs. Marshall (September 21)

We won’t spend much time looking at the non-conference schedule for Ohio State. After wrapping up their home-and-home series with Notre Dame, the Buckeyes should get through the first part of the season with games against Akron, WMU and Marshall.

Ohio State is 10-1 all-time against these teams, with its only loss to Akron coming before 1900. Since 2000, Ohio State is 6-0 against this trio, and none of these teams have the kind of roster or depth that will come this fall can keep things closed.

Difficulty: Cake walk

in the state of Michigan (September 28); vs. Indiana (Nov. 23); vs. Purdue (Nov. 9),

From 2011 to 2016, Michigan State went 3-3 against the Buckeyes with an average margin of victory between the two teams in those six games. Since 2017, though, it’s all OSU, with the Buckeyes blowing out the Spartans every time. This game is in East Lansing, but Jonathan Smith is in his first year trying to rebuild the program after Mel Tucker.

Indiana’s fortunes have been even worse, with Ohio State winning 28 straight in the series since a tie in 1990. The Hoosiers kept things close in 2020 when there were no fans and Michael Penix Jr. was IU’s QB, but even a spirited effort last fall resulted in a 20-point win by OSU. Curt Cignetti is also a new head coach at B1G, but even as a “winner” coach he will need some time to get this thing going.

Purdue, for all its success in big games in West Lafayette, has been blown out twice by the Buckeyes under Ryan Day, and this year’s game is in Columbus. Even if Ryan Walters keeps things looking up, this isn’t the year the Boilermakers will stun the Buckeyes.

Difficulty: B1G cake walk

vs. Iowa (October 5); vs. Nebraska (October 26); at Northwestern (Nov. 16)

Iowa is moving forward this season with a new offensive coordinator, but it’s hard to imagine a time when Brian Ferentz was solely the Hawkeyes’ offensive scourge. Without an offense, an elite Iowa defense can only do so much. Ohio State gradually weakened the Hawkeyes in 2022 before winning 54-10, and DraftKings has the Buckeyes -24 in this season’s matchup. Fans can take advantage of these opportunities by using Tradition’s DraftKings Ohio bonus code.

Nebraska is an interesting matchup after the two sides haven’t faced each other since 2021. The Huskers held the Buckeyes to a 26-17 victory in that game, but that game also took place in Lincoln. Even if Dylan Raiola is the answer at QB, it’s hard to imagine a true freshman QB playing against an elite OSU defense.

Northwestern (at Wrigley Field) is a more difficult game to project for several reasons. Under normal circumstances (and if it were played in Columbus), it would be easy to circle this as just another blowout. But simply playing this at Wrigley, at a point in the season where I expect Ohio State to be focusing on the health of the roster, could lead to some more conservative playing time decisions and a closer-than-expected game.

Difficulty: Tense moments early but a comfortable win in the 4th

at Penn State (November 2)

No one needs a refresher course on the dangers of playing in Happy Valley. Although the Nittany Lions haven’t beaten Ohio State since 2016, they have consistently played the Buckeyes tightly in the series. And despite all the pressure the Day program faces, the same can be said for James Franklin at Penn State.

Depending on how the first part of the season plays out, Penn State could be in “desperation mode” by the time Ohio State comes to town. If the Nittany Lions view this as a Playoff elimination game based on their record, it could lead to Penn State pulling out all the stops.

Difficulty: Easy tread

in Oregon (October 12); vs. Michigan (November 30)

With all due respect to Michigan, a road trip to Eugene could be Ohio State’s toughest game of the season. FanDuel certainly thinks so, even if the Buckeyes are a slight road favorite by 1.5 points prior to the season. Fans can use Tradition’s FanDuel Ohio promo code to get started.

The difficulty in facing Dan Lanning’s Ducks is twofold. Oregon is among the favorites in the Big Ten Championship odds, and the game is coming soon, giving Ohio State an ultra-elite road opponent in the middle of the B1G slate.

In the meantime, nothing needs to be said about The Game. Even with the changes in Ann Arbor, Michigan will be eager to continue its winning streak, and the Wolverines will play with the confidence of a national champion and a three-game winning streak in the rivalry.

Difficulty: 10/10

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