Ohio State Football: Breaking Down the 5 Biggest Games on 2012 Schedule
The Ohio State Buckeyes won't be playing postseason football in 2012, but there's still plenty of importance for the upcoming season.
While a bowl-ban remains in the fallout of the school's tattoo scandal, the arrival of head coach Urban Meyer brings a sense of excitement and wonder to Ohio State's 2012 season.
Can the Buckeyes lay the foundation for a national championship run in 2013 under Meyer, who won two of them with Florida? We'll get to find out in 2012.
In the following slides, we run down Ohio State's five biggest games on the 2012 schedule. If the Buckeyes can go 4-1, or even 5-0, in these five games, Meyer will have to feel good about 2013.
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The schedule in Columbus typically features at least one premier non-conference opponent, with the likes of Texas, USC and Miami (Fla.) dotting the slate over the last five to seven years. 2012 doesn't appear to have a marquee non-conference matchup.
The closest is a trip from Cal in September, but the Golden Bears were just 7-6 last season and 5-7 the year before. The rest of the non-conference slate includes Miami (Ohio), UCF and UAB—all at home.
If the Buckeyes are going to have an early test from a team outside the Big 10, it's likely coming from Cal.
At Michigan State (9/29)
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A year ago, Michigan State won a defensive bloodbath over the Buckeyes in Columbus, 10-7. The matchup now shifts back to East Lansing, but the results could be very similar.
The Spartans, who featured the second-best defense in the conference last season, figure to be very strong on that side of the ball again this season. And Ohio State is expected to make the jump back into the nation's elite on defense in 2012.
If not for the Buckeyes' bowl-ban next season, this late September matchup could have been a Big 10 title game preview.
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As was the case in 2011, Ohio State follows up Michigan State week with a matchup against Nebraska the next Saturday. The Buckeyes lost both games last season.
Nebraska opens up 2012 as one of the nation's top 25 or 30 teams, so Ohio State should have its hands full with the Cornhuskers again, even in the Horseshoe.
Third-year starting quarterback Taylor Martinez returns, and he leads an offense that ranked No. 15 in rushing last season. Running back Rex Burkhead (1,238 yards) also returns, making run defense one of the obvious keys for Ohio State.
At Wisconsin (11/17)
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With the Big 10 splitting into two divisions—the Leaders and Legends—Ohio State and Wisconsin have inherited a natural rivalry. The two schools are unquestionably the best in the Leaders division entering 2012, even if the Buckeyes are not eligible for postseason play.
The rivalry took on another chapter last season, when Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller completed an unbelievable heave into the end zone to knock off the Badgers, 33-29. The win effectively ended UW's chances at competing for a national championship.
Playing in Madison is no easy task, but the Buckeyes could give themselves a big pat of confidence for 2013 with a win over Wisconsin late in 2012.
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With the postseason out of the picture, the Buckeyes can set their sights on a trip from long-hated rival Michigan as a de facto bowl game.
As if college football's greatest rivalry needed any more importance.
Electric quarterback Denard Robinson returns for his final trip to Columbus, and he's looking to erase a 37-7 drubbing he took in his first attempt in 2010. With a talented Wolverine roster around him, that looks like a possibility in 2012.
Records go out the window when these two meet, and you have to wonder if the Buckeyes could help ruin Michigan's promising 2012 season with a final in their most important game of next season. Ohio State fans would have to feel good about ending a ban-shortened season with a win over a Michigan team that could be playing in a top bowl game.