COLUMBUS – Routines change when road games are involved and that is something that the Buckeyes have not had to deal with over the course of the 2022 season.
It has been a bit of an anomaly for the Buckeyes to spend more than the first month only playing games at home. When you factor in Ohio State having all three non-conference games at home (with marquee opponent Notre Dame drawing the home game in 2023) along with the split of five home and four road conference games, eight homes games on a 12-game schedule are a rare treat.
“Going on the road, a tough place to play,” Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said. “Certainly, a great stadium and environment, going to be hard to win up there, it always is. This is the first time we are going on the road, a new challenge and test.”
Five straight at home is something that is almost unheard of.
The five-game homestand was not always in the plans, the Big Ten adjusted conference football schedules in January of 2022 and under the original schedule, Ohio State would have opened at Michigan State in week four and then followed that up with a road game to Penn State in week five.
The 2023 schedule could change as well but as things stand now, six road games are on the schedule for the Buckeyes with five league games and a trip to South Bend (Ind.).
With the way that schedules have shaped up over the years, you would have to go back to 2012 to find a season where the Buckeyes made it through week four before going on the road when the Buckeyes opened their road schedule at Michigan State in a 17-16 win in East Lansing (Mich.).
Over the past 10 years, Ohio State’s first game away from Ohio Stadium was a true road game on eight occasions and a neutral site game in the other two. Ohio State played its first game away from home at Cowboys Stadium against TCU in 2018 and played against Navy in Baltimore in 2014.
With the amount of winning that has occurred over recent years for the Buckeyes, it should come as no surprise that Ohio State has won its last 10 “first games away from home”. 2011 was the last time that Ohio State lost its road opener, a 24-6 loss against the Miami Hurricanes.
Much is said about how sleeping at a different hotel, dealing with moving a travel roster of players along with coaches, support staff, equipment, and everything else that it takes to play major college football can be a distraction. But has it really been an issue for Ohio State?
Nothing that happened in the past will have an immediate or direct effect on what will happen this Saturday, but it is fun to look back at the last 10 “road openers” for the Buckeyes to get a little perspective.
Just Win Baby
As stated above, the Buckeyes are 10-0 in the last ten road openers and have won these games by an average margin of 18.1 points per game, or three possessions if we are getting really technical.
For those who are sticklers for numbers, Ohio State is outscoring its opponents 41.3 to 23.2.
But what about over the course of the 10 years, regardless of the venue, wins and losses counted?
The numbers are not that far off with Ohio State outscoring its opponents over the last 10 years, a total of 130 games, 42.1 to 20.2.
So that means that Ohio State is scoring .8 points fewer in its road opener while opponents are scoring a field goal less over the course of the entire season versus the road opening opponent.
Not A Soft Schedule
In this day and age of “buy games” you are not going to play many teams outside of the Power Five in your first road game of the season. Ohio State is not scheduling home-and-homes against MAC or Sun Belt teams and likely never will.
Over the course of the last 10 road openers, Ohio State has only played one non-Power Five team and that was Navy in 2014. And as we know, Navy draws a real schedule of P5 opponents who generally wonder after the game why they scheduled Navy as the post-Navy hangover is a real thing.
Five of the remaining games have been against Big Ten foes with Indiana drawing the Buckeyes twice along with Minnesota, Penn State and Michigan State.
The remaining games were against TCU, Oklahoma, Virginia Tech, and Cal.
Out Of The Gate?
Over this same 10-year sample size, the Buckeyes have gotten things started right out of the gate with four of the 10 games taking place in week one. Nothing like getting your road legs right out of the box.
The Buckeyes have played their first road game in week two only once, the confusing 2020 season that saw the Big Ten schedule adjusted, canceled, and then brought back later with only Big Ten conference games.
Ohio State has had to wait until week three in four more seasons and then as mentioned earlier, 2012 saw the Buckeyes have to wait until week five to play the Spartans in Urban Meyer’s first year as Ohio State head coach.
Yes, not every road opener is week one and there have been several instances where the team has had a couple of weeks to put things together in terms of the rushing and passing game.
In non-week one games, the Buckeyes have passed for no lower than a 63-percent completion clip. The numbers get much worse in week one games with the Buckeyes having three of four games sub-.600 and only one game above that mark, back in 2012 when Braxton Miller went 16-23 against Michigan State.
Strangely enough, that is the only game where the Buckeyes only had one passing touchdown, in a 17-16 win where field position was the name.
Even C.J. Stroud had his struggles in game one of 2021 when the Buckeyes traveled to Minnesota for his first career start. Stroud was only 59.1-percent passing but he also threw for 294 yards and four scores.
The Buckeyes have passed for at least two touchdowns in all but one of these 10 games, passing for two in two games, strangely enough both neutral site games. The other seven games saw the Buckeyes pass for three or four touchdowns.
And just for a little trip down memory lane, the quarterbacks of record here include Stroud, Justin Fields, Dwayne Haskins Jr., J.T. Barrett, Cardale Jones, Kenny Guiton, and Braxton Miller.
We mentioned earlier that opponents in this first road game for the Buckeyes have been averaging 23.2 points per game with Jared Goff’s Cal team in 2013 setting the high number at 34 points, Minnesota in 2021 behind Mo Ibrahim (prior to his injury) leading the Gophers to 31 points and five other opponents scoring at least 20 points.
But Ohio State’s pass rush has been something to look at with the team averaging 3.4 sacks per game and 7.2 tackles for loss.
Let’s not forget over this window of games there were some players with the last name of Bosa and Young, so the Ohio State pass rush was a real force.
Comparing those numbers to this year, Ohio State is right there with its TFL numbers at 7.6 TFLs per game but the sack numbers have not quite been there with 10 sacks over five games or an average of just two per game.