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Ohio State's 2014-15 Big Ten Conference Schedule Breakdown

With the Big Ten conference schedule now released, we take a look at how things look for the Buckeyes.

Shannon Scott will need to play B1G to make it through conference play.
Shannon Scott will need to play B1G to make it through conference play.
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

After the 2013-14 season, the Buckeyes are looking to recover after being upset by Dayton in the Round of 64 in the NCAA Tournament.  The Flyers beat the Buckeyes in dramatic fashion, leaving many in the Buckeye fanbase in shock.  After the upset, many have overlooked some major accomplishments for last year for Ohio State and the potential to take a step forward in the coming year.  A lot will depend on their performance in the conference slate.  With the release of the conference schedule, let's take a look at how things stand for Ohio State in 2014-15:

Ohio State's 2014-15 Big Ten Schedule

Date

Home / Away

Opponent

12/30

Home

Iowa

1/3

Home

Illinois

1/6

Away

Minnesota

1/10

Away

Indiana

1/13

Home

Michigan

1/17

Away

Iowa

1/22

Away

Northwestern

1/25

Home

Indiana

1/29

Home

Maryland

2/4

Away

Purdue

2/8

Away

Rutgers

2/11

Home

Penn State

2/14

Away

Michigan State

2/22

Away

Michigan

2/26

Home

Nebraska

3/1

Home

Purdue

3/4

Away

Penn State

3/8

Home

Wisconsin

To better summarize the above - here is how the B1G Schedule breaks down:

Home only: Illinois, Maryland, Nebraska, Wisconsin
Away only: Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Rutgers
Both: Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Penn State, Purdue

The Buckeyes open up with a pretty challenging open slate.  Unfortunately for Ohio State, much of their performance in the Big Ten will be determined by these opening 6 games.  Some may disagree with that assessment, but once you look at the opening games, it makes sense.  The Buckeyes get an even home-away split through their first 6 games, but none of these games are out of reach.  Realistically, Ohio State can win every one of these games and will likely be favored in the majority of these games.  Add in that every one of these 6 teams looks like a quality squad and you could literally have an NCAA bid locked up by Game 6 of the Big Ten season - or be very close.  On the flip side, if OSU struggles against teams like Indiana or Minnesota and loses some home games to a team like Illinois or Iowa and it could be a strong sign of a rough slate.  OSU really needs to at least go 3-3 in this slate and to truly compete in the Big Ten, the team probably needs to go 4-2 or 5-1.  This is the kind of segment that should set the real expectations for the rest of the season.

The next 6 game series is much different from the first.  Every one of OSU's first 6 conference games are challenging, but the next 6 are very manageable.  They do face some interesting teams like Indiana and Maryland, but they get both at home.  In fact, 3 of these 6 games will be in Columbus and the remaining 3 are against Northwestern, Purdue, and Rutgers.  If you're talking about winnable road games in the Big Ten, you can't ask for much better than that.  None of these games are guaranteed, but if OSU drops anything more than a game out in this segment, fans should probably get concerned.  The only teams here that are even near the talent level of OSU are Indiana and Maryland and, again, the Buckeyes get both at home.  If OSU wants to be a real Big Ten and NCAA contender, these are games the team needs to win.

Following the second segment, this is the part of the year where things get very tough.  OSU opens with a tricky, but manageable first 6 games and then follows that with a very manageable next 6 games.  The final 6 are going to be tough.  There's just no getting around it here.  The Buckeyes can get in position for the NCAA Tournament and a solid seed through its first 12 conference games, but this is where you are going to find out whether OSU is just a good team or is really a team that can compete for the big accomplishments.

The home-away split is equal in this last segment, but with road games at Michigan, MSU, and Penn State, it's not crazy to see OSU losing at least 2 and perhaps even 3 just in those games.  Add in Nebraska and Wisconsin at home and it's really not hard to see OSU finishing at 2-4 or maybe even 1-5 in conference play.  Will that happen?  Probably not, but it's certainly not unprecedented.  OSU lost on the road to Michigan, MSU, Nebraska, and Penn State last season and with Wisconsin looking like a very real Final Four contender, none of these games are given.  Ohio State could certainly win a good hunk of these games and maybe even finish with a winning record in the team's final 6 games, but it's just tough to see that here.  This will one of the toughest segments for any Big Ten team.

Ohio State could very likely be one of the best teams in the conference next year and run through much of these schedule with their elite talent, but the team is going to face some major challenges along the way.  If the Buckeyes can start hot, they could set themselves up for an epic finish over the last third of the conference season.  The way I look at things now, I would guess Ohio State finishes somewhere around 11-7 in the Big Ten this year.  That may seem a big low, but it's really the depth of the conference and the major challenges facing the team.  Of course, things are never set in stone before the year starts, so what are your predictions?