In today's Columbus Dispatch, there was an article discussing Ohio State's and USC's scheduling philosophies. The article pointed out that USC is playing at Virginia on Aug. 30, against Ohio State at home on Sept. 13, and finishes up their non-conference opponents in late November when they play Notre Dame at home. USC will play its other nine games against Pac-10 competition.
By comparison, Ohio State opens up at home against Youngstown State on Aug. 30, at home against Ohio University on Sept. 6, plays at USC Sept. 13, then comes home to play Troy on Sept. 20. The remaining eight games are against Big Ten competition.
The national perception of Ohio State is that Ohio State does not play anyone. When you read through this article, and compare Ohio State's schedule to USC's schedule, that argument is validated.
The article also points out that Ohio State has not always been this way with regards to scheduling. In 1988, Ohio State played Syracuse at home (win), at Pittsburgh (excruciating loss—the end of the honeymoon period for Coach Cooper at Ohio State), and at home against LSU (exciting win in the last seconds).
In 1995, Ohio State played Boston College in The Kickoff Classic (win), home over No. 18 Washington (win), at Pittsburgh (win), and at home against No. 15 Notre Dame (what a great game that was; another win for Ohio State).
If I were Gene Smith and in charge of scheduling Ohio State's upcoming opponents, I would do the following:
1. No more Youngstown State. I respect Coach Tressel helping out his previous school, and I have no doubt Youngstown State is grateful for the handsome payday. The reality is Ohio State should not be scheduling any Division 1-AA schools ever.
2. Limit the MAC opponents to one per season. I do respect the rationale in keeping the money in the state of Ohio. I do not mind one Ohio-based MAC opponent (such as Bowling Green, Ohio University, Miami University, Toledo), but that should be it going forward.
3. Start scheduling Big East or SEC teams that are nearby geographically for rivalry purposes. Instead of playing Troy, how about Kentucky? How about West Virginia? Pittsburgh? I'll even take Cincinnati. At least these teams are eligible for BCS berths. Tennessee is an upcoming series in 2018 and 2019. Try to get Notre Dame on the schedule again.
4. Play a full Big Ten schedule. I place this one last on the list, as this is a conference decision and not solely up to Gene Smith. I would follow the Pac 10's lead and have all Big Ten teams play ten conference games, leaving two for non-conference games.
Yes, I know that means Ohio State would lose a home game every other year, but the strength of schedule argument I have laid out in previous posts would be enhanced by playing other Big Ten teams, rather than what they are doing now.