I have written before about home-field advantage in college football and what it can mean for a team. With this year’s Ohio St. Buckeyes, it isn’t just about home-field advantage, but also about rarely leaving home. Tonight’s game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers will be the Buckeyes’ fifth home game out of their first six games this season. They have played all of their non-conference games this season at home and will continue to see this kind of schedule for the rest of the year. They have only three road games remaining, giving them a total of eight home games on their twelve-game schedule.
The only road game the Buckeyes have had this season so far was their 17-16 win last week at the Michigan St. Spartans. That game saw Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller perform poorly for the first half before redeeming himself with a fine second half that resulted in his team’s slim win. The game turned into a defensive struggle—as many in this rivalry do—with both running attacks stopped and big plays through the air being few and very far between. Miller provided one of these plays with a third quarter touchdown pass, and that turned out to be the final score for the Buckeyes in the game.
The Buckeyes have road games against (in order) the Indiana Hoosiers, Penn St. Nittany Lions, and Wiscosnin Badgers remaining on their schedule. It may not appear like it, but this could be rocky for the Buckeyes, and may even end up with at least one road defeat.
While the Hoosiers fell short in their upset bid at home against the Spartans today, they are not the pushover they have historically been in football in this conference. The fact that they lead the Spartans for the majority of the game is testimony to that. What it comes down to is if the Buckeyes come into their road game against the Hoosiers cocky, play sloppy, and commit turnovers, they could lose.
The more dangerous road tests will be against the Nittany Lions and Badgers. Both of these teams are looking to save their seasons, both because of different reasons obviously, but both will have the proper mental motivation coming into their game against the Buckeyes.
The Nittany Lions have really sucked it up and become a passable football team. Despite all of the off-season chaos and controversy, as well as the close losses that painted the picture of their first few games, the Nittany Lions seem to have turned it around with dominating performances against the Temple Owls, Navy Midshipmen, and Illinois Fighting Illini. But their win today against the Northwestern Wildcats is the one that makes this team seem more for real. The Wildcats came in undefeated and appearing to be the dark horse team that was going to shake up the Big Ten this year. Thanks to outscoring the Wildcats 29-14 in the second half, the Nittany Lions have made it known that they could be the team shaking things up for the higher-tier teams in this year’s Big Ten.
When the Buckeyes get to Madison, Wisconsin for their meeting with the Badgers, the stakes could be high. The Badgers are never fully going to be out of the running for the conference title game because of the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions being ineligible for post-season play. That means that this game could be a make-or-break kind of game for the Badgers’ division title hopes; of course that is predicated on the Badgers shaping up and getting a winning streak going. As for the Buckeyes, they can still win the division, just not play in the conference title game. So figure the Big Ten Leaders division title in one way or another will be on the line when this game rolls around.
And finally, the big home game for the Buckeyes: their annual meeting with the Michigan Wolverines. This year the Buckeyes will get their hated rivals at home, and head coach Urban Meyer probably wouldn’t have it any other way for his first real test as head coach of the Buckeyes. Remember, it’s not about conference titles and national titles the same way it was for Meyer when he coached the Florida Gators; when coaching the Buckeyes or Wolverines, it’s mainly about your coaching record against the other.