Ohio State Football: Predicting the Buckeyes' 2016 Win-Loss Record
With road games against College Football Playoff contenders Oklahoma and Michigan State, Big Ten contenders Wisconsin and Penn State and the regular-season finale against rival Michigan, Ohio State's 2016 schedule is one of the most difficult in all of college football this year.
This would have been a great schedule for last year's loaded team, which looked like it was sleepwalking through most of its walkover slate. But with 16 new starters this year, the young Buckeyes will have a hard time keeping pace in the playoff race.
How will head coach Urban Meyer's fifth Ohio State team fare this fall?
Week 1: Bowling Green
Ohio State will make quick work of the reigning MAC champion in the season opener.
Mike Weber, who will edge Bri'onte Dunn in the running back position battle, will have a breakout game in his first start, running for 120 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries. Dunn will chip in 70 yards on 12 carries as the Buckeyes establish a healthy rotation between the two.
Quarterback J.T. Barrett will throw for 230 yards and two touchdowns, the defense will force three turnovers and the Buckeyes will cruise to a big win.
Ohio State 41, Bowling Green 13
Week 2: Tulsa
Barrett will showcase Ohio State's reworked passing attack in the Week 2 showdown against visiting Tulsa.
Noah Brown and Corey Smith, two wideouts who missed spring practice as they rehabbed broken legs, will each catch touchdowns as Barrett connects on 24 of his 30 passes for 325 yards and four total touchdowns. The combination of Weber and Dunn at running back and Barrett at quarterback will pile up 200 rushing yards.
Tulsa, which ranked 13th in total offense and 21st in scoring offense a season ago, will challenge the Buckeyes' young defense. Wide receiver Joshua Atkinson will slice through the Buckeyes' young secondary for 125 yards and two touchdowns.
Ohio State 48, Tulsa 27
Week 3: At Oklahoma
What could end up being the nonconference game of the year will end in crushing fashion for Ohio State.
The Buckeyes defense will have surprising success as it targets the interior of Oklahoma's offensive line, which will be breaking in a new center and guard. Defensive end Sam Hubbard will register a game-high two sacks, leading the charge as the Buckeyes corral Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield in the backfield four total times.
A 40-yard field goal from Ohio State kicker Sean Nuernberger will tie the game at 20 midway through the fourth quarter, but on the ensuing drive, Mayfield will put together a game-clinching, 12-play touchdown drive that will take six minutes off the clock.
With only 90 seconds remaining, Barrett and the Ohio State offense will advance the ball past midfield, but they'll run out of time in a close loss.
Oklahoma 27, Ohio State 20
Week 5: Rutgers
Ohio State's matchup with Rutgers will be The Torrance Gibson Game.
A well-timed bye week will allow the Buckeyes an extra seven days to refocus after the close loss to Oklahoma, and they'll take their anger out on head coach Chris Ash's Rutgers team. Barrett will be sharp and throw for 280 yards and three touchdowns, but Gibson will steal the show by hauling in a career-high five catches for 150 yards and two scores.
Ohio State's offense will continue to find the balance that evaded it in 2015 as the Buckeyes kick off the new nine-game Big Ten slate with a big win.
Ohio State 49, Rutgers 10
Week 6: Indiana
Barrett will start to scratch the surface of Heisman Trophy contention with a five-touchdown performance against Indiana, but the Buckeyes defense will take a step backward in a closer-than-expected victory.
Barrett will connect with Marcus Baugh twice and Brown once for passing touchdowns and add 120 yards and two scores on the ground against the Hoosiers' overmatched defense. But head coach Kevin Wilson's Hoosiers, who have given Ohio State a fight during the Meyer era, will prove scrappy once again.
Quarterback Richard Lagow will nearly match Barrett with four touchdowns of his own, but the Buckeyes will play keep-away with a long drive and a defensive turnover to seal the game in the fourth.
Ohio State 38, Indiana 31
Week 7: At Wisconsin
Ohio State will get a signature win on the road under the lights in Madison, Wisconsin, in Week 7.
In their second hostile environment of the season, the Buckeyes will come up big down the stretch. It'll be a back-and-forth game against Wisconsin, with Ohio State taking an early lead before the Badgers bounce back.
Wisconsin will take a 24-23 lead into the fourth quarter of a defensive slugfest. Raekwon McMillan will get the game ball after registering a career-high 19 tackles and four tackles for loss, but Nuernberger will be the hero with four field goals, the last of which will come in the final minute from 40 yards out to give Ohio State the win.
Ohio State 26, Wisconsin 24
Week 8: At Penn State
Another tough night road game will yield another close, come-from-behind win for the Buckeyes.
Ohio State has handled Penn State during the Meyer era, winning four straight games by an average of 24 points. But the last time the Buckeyes visited Happy Valley, they barely escaped with a thrilling 31-24 double-overtime win.
This one will be closer, but Ohio State won't need extra time to get it done. Meyer will lean on Barrett after playing it too conservative the week before against Wisconsin, and the junior quarterback will deliver with 320 total yards and three touchdowns.
The Buckeyes will pad their lead with a late field goal from Nuernberger, and Penn State's last-ditch drive to win the game will come up short in the red zone.
Ohio State 31, Penn State 27
Week 9: Northwestern
After back-to-back nail-biters on the road, Ohio State will return home and get a big win under its belt against Northwestern.
Running back Mike Weber will come up big under the lights in the Horseshoe, running for a career-high 160 yards and three touchdowns. Barrett will struggle and throw two picks against two touchdowns, which will help the Wildcats make the game look more respectable than it was.
Ohio State 42, Northwestern 20
Week 10: Nebraska
Ohio State will get a tough fight from Nebraska in its fourth straight night game of the 2016 season.
The Cornhuskers will be angry after dropping their first game of the year to Wisconsin the previous week, and they'll ride that frustration to an early 17-6 lead midway through the second quarter. That's when Ohio State's defense will settle in and register interceptions from Tommy Armstrong on consecutive drives that will lead to easy touchdowns for the offense in plus territory.
Barrett will bounce back from his first underwhelming performance of the year with 340 total yards and four touchdowns. Corey Smith will have his best game as a Buckeye, hauling in seven catches for 110 yards and two scores.
Ohio State 37, Nebraska 24
Week 11: At Maryland
The previous four wins over Wisconsin, Penn State, Northwestern and Nebraska will help Ohio State claw its way to the No. 9 ranking in the College Football Playoff standings, but a big win over Maryland and a few Week 11 upsets will vault the Buckeyes into serious playoff contention.
Weber will make quick work of Maryland's overrun defense by eclipsing 100 yards and two scores in the first half. Barrett will be sharp as well, and he'll connect with Weber for another score and Brown for two more as Ohio State gains a 35-7 advantage by halftime.
OSU will cruise to an easy 43-point win, and later that day, it'll watch Oregon upset Stanford, Washington knock off USC and Iowa best Michigan to catapult the Buckeyes to the No. 6 ranking before the home stretch.
Ohio State 56, Maryland 13
Week 12: At Michigan State
Just as Ohio State's playoff hopes peak, Michigan State will once again dash them with a crushing upset.
The Spartans will rally after a 1-2 start to the season (losing to Notre Dame and Wisconsin) with four straight wins before falling again to Michigan. But Illinois and Rutgers will serve as tuneup games before Ohio State comes calling, and the Spartans will be ready for the Buckeyes' best shot.
Barrett will come out hot and throw three first-half touchdowns as the Buckeyes build a 24-17 halftime lead. But the defense will buckle under Michigan State's bulldozing run game, as LJ Scott registers two second-half touchdowns, the last of which will seal the game in the closing minutes.
Michigan State 38, Ohio State 34
Week 13: Michigan
Just like last year, Ohio State will bounce back quickly to get a win over Michigan, but this time around, it will be much closer.
Both the Buckeyes and the Wolverines will come into the regular-season finale with a 7-1 league record, so the winner will punch its ticket to the Big Ten title game. The teams will trade touchdowns in the first half and go into the break knotted up at 14.
The Wolverines will open the third quarter with possession, and they'll cash in with a 14-play, 83-yard touchdown drive. On the ensuing drive, Jabrill Peppers will pick off Barrett and return it for a touchdown to help give Michigan a commanding 28-14 lead.
But that's when the Buckeyes will fight their way back into it. On the last play of the third quarter, Curtis Samuel will motion into the backfield and break free for a 48-yard touchdown run to help pull Ohio State within seven. After forcing a three-and-out on the next drive, the Buckeyes will answer again with a methodical, 10-play touchdown drive to tie the game at 28.
Neither team will be able to generate a scoring drive late, so the game will head to overtime for the first time in series history.
Ohio State will win the toss and defer, so Michigan will get the ball first. A first-down carry from De'Veon Smith will lose two yards, and back-to-back incompletions from quarterback John O’Korn will force a long Kenny Allen kick, which he'll drill to put the Wolverines up.
The Buckeyes will answer and end it quickly, though. On the first play of the ensuing drive, Barrett will toss a quick bubble screen to Samuel, who will break two tackles and streak 25 yards for the score.
The Buckeyes will finish the season 10-2 (8-1) and head to the conference title game for a showdown with Iowa and an outside chance of making the College Football Playoff.
Ohio State 34, Michigan 31 (OT)