Perfection is not only a goal but an expectation for the Ohio State Buckeyes following a 12-0 campaign last season.
In 2013, Urban Meyer's Buckeyes are bowl eligible and expected to win the Big Ten Conference en route to reaching a BCS bowl game. But before Ohio State can run the table for a second straight year, it will have to navigate through a tricky schedule that features a handful of challenging matchups, including three brutal road games.
With the season drawing closer, let's take a closer look at the Buckeyes' toughest matchups in 2013.
Sept. 14: At California Golden Bears
Nearly one year after surviving Cal in a thrilling matchup in Columbus, the Buckeyes will head West to take on the Golden Bears in Berkeley on Sept. 14.
Cal will have revenge on its mind following last year's heartbreaking loss at Ohio Stadium, which saw the Bears tie the game at 28-28 midway through the fourth quarter before Braxton Miller and Devin Smith hooked up on a 72-yard touchdown pass with just over three minutes remaining to keep Ohio State's hopes of a perfect season alive.
Although Cal is coming off a dismal 3-9 season in 2012, playing on the road is always tough in college football, especially when you're going up against a power conference opponent more than 2,400 miles from home.
Cal fans are always rowdy and will do their best to help propel the Golden Bears to a huge early-season upset.
Oct. 5: At Northwestern Wildcats
Ohio State went 8-0 against the Big Ten in 2012, but none of those wins came against Northwestern, a team suddenly on the rise after finishing last season with 10 wins.
The Wildcats will host the Buckeyes on the first Saturday of October next fall in a matchup that will truly test Urban Meyer's squad. Northwestern returns 15 starters in 2013, according to CBSSports.com's Tom Fornelli, and is coming off a year in which it went 6-1 at home in Evanston.
Quarterback Kain Colter will return under center, and 1,300-yard rusher Venric Mark is also a senior this year. The two players combined to rush for more than 2,250 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2012. Colter had another eight touchdowns through the air.
Northwestern's only loss at Ryan Field last season came in a one-point defeat at the hands of Nebraska. So this game will be no gimme for Ohio State.
Nov. 30: At Michigan Wolverines
The Buckeyes will save the toughest matchup of all for last in 2013. On the final day of November, Ohio State will make the journey north to Ann Arbor to take on bitter rival Michigan.
Which matchup will be Ohio State's toughest test in 2013?
These two teams have been going at each other's throats since the late 19th century, and Michigan will have even more incentive to knock off Ohio State having dropped eight of the past nine meetings between the two schools, including last year's five-point loss at Columbus.
Keep in mind that Ohio State's last trip to the Big House resulted in a 40-34 defeat in 2011, and since 1999, three of Michigan's four victories over Ohio State have come in Ann Arbor.
Although Brady Hoke's Wolverines have lost a considerable amount of talent from last season, this is a road rivalry game, which means the Buckeyes will be at a major disadvantage.
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