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Ohio State will open Big Ten season Oct. 24 vs. Nebraska, finish vs. Michigan

Bill Rabinowitz
Ohio State will play rival Michigan on Dec. 12 in Ohio Stadium. The last time the Buckeyes hosted the Wolverines, in 2018, running back Mike Weber's third-quarter touchdown helped OSU roll to a 62-39 win.

In a Big Ten football season like no other, Ohio State will finish its regular season like nearly all others.

The Buckeyes’ Big Ten finale will be against Michigan at Ohio Stadium on Dec. 12. It will be the latest regular-season game in Ohio State history.

Michigan has been the Buckeyes’ final regular-season opponent every year but one since 1935. In 1942, during World War II, Ohio State closed against the Iowa Seahawks, a military team.

In the Big Ten’s original conference-only schedule, released Aug. 5, that tradition would have been interrupted. The Buckeyes and Wolverines were scheduled to play on Oct. 24 in that slate. The Big Ten then postponed the season Aug. 11 before reversing itself on Wednesday.

Oct. 24 is now the opening date for the season, and the Buckeyes will open at home against Nebraska.

It’s a fitting opener because the Buckeyes and Cornhuskers, along with Iowa, were the most outspoken about wanting the Big Ten to reconsider its decision to postpone the fall season.

Ohio State has lost to Nebraska only once, in 2011, since the Cornhuskers joined the Big Ten a year earlier.

Ohio State will then go to State College on Oct. 31 to play Penn State, but will not have to deal with the White Out crowd the Buckeyes usually face in Happy Valley because fans — other than players’ families — will not be permitted at games this season.

That will be followed by a home game against Rutgers. Former Buckeyes defensive coordinator Greg Schiano has returned to Rutgers as coach in hopes of again rebuilding the Scarlet Knights, who have seldom been competitive since joining the Big Ten.

Ohio State will play at Maryland on Nov. 14 before Indiana visits on Nov. 21.

The Buckeyes travel to Illinois the next week and then to Michigan State before playing Michigan.

The next week, the top teams from the East and West divisions will meet in the Big Ten championship game and the other conference teams will play the corresponding seed in the opposite division for a ninth game.

In the original Big Ten-only 10-game schedule, Ohio State’s West Division opponents were Nebraska, Iowa, Purdue and Illinois. Iowa and Purdue are no longer on the schedule.

With COVID-19 already causing postponements of games across the country so far this season, there’s no guarantee even this new Big Ten schedule will be played in its entirety.

“This year is going to be strange,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said on Fox’s Saturday pregame show. “We knew that from the get-go. It wasn’t going to be a normal season.

“I think there’s going to be a lot of games that are postponed throughout the fall. So who knows how many games each team is going to play? We can’t worry about that. When we get an opportunity to go play, we’re going to play as hard as we can, as physical as we can, and be as tough as we can.”

The Buckeyes are just grateful for a chance to play at all.

“We had to battle through an emotional month,” Day said. “We actually took Thursday off to kind of catch our breath. And then Friday, we had one of the best practices I’ve been around in 10 or 20 years. I mean, it was unbelievable. Guys were flying around, smiling, having fun, (playing) with energy. I left that practice with a smile on my face. I’m so happy for these kids.”

Also Saturday, Ohio State clarified that other sports postponed by the Big Ten on Aug. 11 — men’s and women’s soccer and cross country, women’s volleyball and field hockey — would see their seasons moved to the spring, consistent with the NCAA’s decision to move those championships to the spring.

Information about winter sports scheduled to begin in the fall — including men’s and women’s basketball, hockey and swimming, as well as wrestling — will be announced at a later date. The NCAA already announced this week that men’s and women’s basketball may begin on Nov. 25.