Ohio State Football: How the Road Can Be Unkind to the Buckeyes in 2013
Ohio State shouldn't have many problems being perfect at home. It's the road trips that will show how good this team really is next season.
The Buckeyes only leave Ohio five times, but face tough challenges in nearly all of those games.
OSU plays this season at Cal, Northwestern, Purdue, Illinois and Michigan. The Illini should pose little threat after going winless in the Big Ten a year ago, but the other four road games may be very tough.
Cal gave OSU a tough test in the Horseshoe a year ago and should pose another threat in Berkeley with first-year coach Sonny Dykes running the show. The Golden Bears offense should be more explosive, especially if youngsters RB Brendan Bigelow and WR Chris Harper build off solid seasons.
Northwestern finally had a big breakthrough in 2012, winning 10 games as well as winning a bowl game for the first time since 1949.
The news gets worse for the rest of the Big Ten because most of the Wildcats' big guns, namely RB Venric Mark and QB Kain Colter, are back. Northwestern is already a tough team to stop, but now, they're an even tougher team with experience and a boatload of confidence.
The Buckeyes haven't lost to Northwestern since 2004, but this year's team may be the best Northwestern has been in a long time.
Purdue should be an interesting challenge as well because of how much trouble the Boilermakers have caused the Buckeyes in recent years. Were it not for an incredible comeback by Kenny Guiton at QB, the Buckeyes would have lost to Purdue for the third time in four years last season.
New coach Darrell Hazell may bring a different mindset offensively than Danny Hope, but Purdue has enough talent to make OSU sweat again if the Boilermakers play the way they have in recent years.
As for Michigan, the difficulty is obvious with the rivalry factor. The Wolverines defense should be at its best since the Lloyd Carr era ended, and RB Fitzgerald Toussaint should be healthy after missing last year's showdown in Columbus.
OSU fell to the Wolverines in Ann Arbor two years ago, in the last game before Urban Meyer signed on as head coach. Michigan could be the biggest obstacle standing between the Buckeyes and the national championship shot they have coveted for years.
These four games in particular are all winnable without question, but they're certainly going to be battles.
If the Buckeyes run the table once again this year, with the road slate in front of them, it will mean a lot more.
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