Jim Naveau: Worst to best, ranking every game on OSU's schedule

·4 min read

Aug. 27—It's early. It's just a guess. But here's how Ohio State's 12 regular-season football opponents rank from worst to first right now.

12. Arkansas State

The Red Wolves are the undisputed worst team on Ohio State's schedule.

They're coming off a 2-10 season in which one of the wins was over an FCS team, a season in which they couldn't run the football and couldn't stop their opponents from running it. Nine opponents gained more than 200 yards against them.

Former Cincinnati and Tennessee coach Butch Jones is in his second year as Arkansas State's head coach.

Arkansas State will watch its all-time record against Big Ten schools drop to 0-11 and collect a reported $1.8 million check for its trip to Columbus.

11. Indiana

Indiana won two games last year and anything over four wins this season would be a surprise.

Last season the Hoosiers (2-10, 0-9 Big Ten) were No. 13 in the Big Ten in scoring and No. 14 in points allowed. They averaged 290 yards per game in total offense, had only four touchdown passes all season and allowed 29 sacks. They will have five new assistant coaches and at least 12 new players via the transfer portal this season.

10. Toledo

The Rockets were picked second in the Mid-American Conference West Division in a preseason poll.

Toledo is 24-20 the last four years and has not won a conference or division championship since 2017. The Rockets scored 33.4 points a game last season, led the MAC in scoring defense (21.8) but lost five games by a touchdown or less.

9. Northwestern

Northwestern starts its season with a game against Nebraska in Dublin, Ireland. The Wildcats would need the combined luck of every citizen of Dublin, Cork and Limerick to beat Ohio State.

In the four seasons before this one, Northwestern has won the Big Ten West Division twice and finished 3-9 twice. This year's team is probably closer to a three-win team than it is to a division champion-level team.

8. Rutgers

The Scarlet Knights won five games last season in the second year of Greg Schiano's return to Rutgers. As many as 16 starters could be players Schiano recruited out of high school or as transfers, so the hope at Rutgers is to become bowl eligible this year.

7. Maryland

Maryland can put points on the scoreboard with quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, little brother of Miami Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa, and a scary talented group of wide receivers.

But C.J. Stroud and Ohio State's receivers could have a big day against the Terrapins, who gave up 50 passing touchdowns last season. Only Indiana, with 51, was worse in the Big Ten.

6. Michigan State

The Spartans have a formidable passing combination in quarterback Payton Thorne (27 TD passes) and wide receiver Jayden Reed (60 catches, 1,060 yards, 11 touchdowns). But their defense gave up the most passing yards in college football last season. Stroud threw for 432 yards and six touchdowns against them in a 56-7 Ohio State win.

5. Iowa

Once again Iowa will be strong on defense and special teams and questionable on offense. That was good enough to get them to the Big Ten championship game last season.

In an era when the top quarterbacks in college football complete 70 percent of their passes or close to it, the Hawkeyes have not had a QB complete 60 percent of his passes since 2015. Returning starter Spencer Petras has completed 57 percent of his throws in his career.

4. Wisconsin

Ohio State has beaten Wisconsin eight games in a row, but five of those wins have been by single digits.

3. Penn State

Ohio State has beaten the Nittany Lions nine of the last 10 times they've played. But a trip to Penn State is rarely, if ever, easy.

2. Notre Dame

There are lots of Ohio State connections with head coach Marcus Freeman, analyst James Laurinaitis and wide receiver Lorenzo Styles Jr. This game could be a good early test of how much OSU's defense has improved with three new defensive coaches.

1. Michigan

Ohio State probably has more talent than Michigan, but the Wolverines still have enough to make this year's game a challenge despite losing some big names on defense.