Ohio State Football: Ranking the Hardest Games of the 2014 Schedule

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Ohio State Football: Ranking the Hardest Games of the 2014 Schedule
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Ohio State hasn't lost a regular-season game since November of 2011, when Luke Fickell's Buckeyes capped a miserable year with a 40-34 loss to the Michigan Wolverines.

Since then, Urban Meyer has guided the Buckeyes through two regular seasons unscathed. Some, like Michael Rosenberg of SI.comclaim that the Buckeyes' historic win streak came as a result of weak competition.

Whether that's true or not, the same won't be said about Ohio State's 2014 slate.

While no one will confuse the Buckeyes' upcoming schedule for a typical SEC gauntlet, an upgraded nonconference slate will give Ohio State's reputation a major boost.

The Buckeyes will play a number of talented teams that either boast a unique offensive attack, a dominant defense or have revenge on the mind.

Here's a ranking of Ohio State's hardest games of the 2014 season.

 

5. Aug. 30 vs. Navy (M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore)

Last year: 9-4

Simply put, Navy isn't a fun team to play.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Quarterback Keenan Reynolds will lead Navy's dangerous offense in 2014.

The triple-option attack is one of the most difficult offenses to defend and the Midshipmenwho ranked No. 2 with 325 rushing yards per game in 2013execute it better than any team in the country. 

Navy's blocking schemes will effectively eliminate any size advantage for the Buckeyes defense. If Ohio State is out of position—something that happened regularly last season—the Midshipmen will move the ball at will and keep the Buckeyes offense off the field.

That's the formula Navy used against Ohio State in a near upset during the 2009 season opener.

Meyer will have all summer to prepare for the Midshipmen and he's hoping for a more decisive result to kick off Ohio State's 2014 campaign.

 

4. Sept. 6 vs. Virginia Tech 

Last year: 8-5 (5-3 in conference)

The week after playing Navy, Ohio State will return home for its marquee nonconference matchup of the year against Virginia Tech.

The Hokies will be replacing major contributors on both sides of the ball—most notably, quarterback Logan Thomas—but they possess a level of talent and coaching that Ohio State hasn't seen in a nonconference regular-season matchup since 2009.

Virginia Tech is far removed from the 10-wins-per-season status it gained in the aughts, but Frank Beamer still has his Hokies playing at a high level.

They certainly challenged Alabama in their season-opening loss in 2013, limiting the Tide to just 206 total yards of offense.

 

3. Oct. 25 at Penn State

Last year: 7-5 (4-4)

Ohio State delivered a historic thrashing to Penn State last season—the Buckeyes led 42-7 at halftime before cruising to a 63-14 victory—but it's hard to imagine a blowout like that in 2014. 

Mike McGinnis/Getty Images
Christian Hackenberg will lead an inspired Penn State team in 2014.

With new head coach James Franklin at the helm and quarterback Christian Hackenberg a year older, the Nittany Lions will be looking to build off a successful 2013 season.

Penn State will also want to avenge that humiliating loss and the 107,000-plus fans in the stands should make things difficult for the Buckeyes.

 

2. Nov. 29 vs. Michigan

Last year: 7-6 (3-5)

After the disastrous Rich Rodriguez era at Michigan, things were looking up for the Wolverines following Brady Hoke's first year. Michigan won 11 games, including a 23-20 overtime victory against Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl, and Hoke was recruiting elite talent to Ann Arbor.

The program has been in decline since, going 8-5 in 2012 and 7-6 last year.

That didn't stop the Wolverines from pulling off what would have been the upset of the year last November. A failed two-point conversion in the final minute preserved an Ohio State victory, but the game proved that Michigan can play with Ohio State.

The 2014 edition of "The Game" will take place in Columbus, but a veteran Wolverines squad—led by senior quarterback Devin Gardner—should give Ohio State a stiff challenge.

 

1. Nov. 8 at Michigan State

Last year: 13-1 (8-0)

Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Connor Cook torched the Buckeyes with 304 passing yards and three touchdowns in the Big Ten title game last year.

Ohio State was riding a school-record 24-game winning streak when it entered the Big Ten title game last year. 

Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook, tailback Jeremy Langford and one of the nation's top defenses brought that streak to an abrupt halt with a 34-24 upset.

The Spartans will have Cook, Langford and another excellent defense back this season. With the game taking place in East Lansing, Mich., this will be Ohio State's toughest game in 2014.

Michigan State will need to replace six starters on defense and a majority of its offensive line, but by the time November rolls around, Mark Dantonio should have his team playing at a high level.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all stats via NCAA.com.

David Regimbal is the Ohio State Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. 
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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