Scheduling A Big Puzzle For Ohio State

Ohio State just added foes to complete its 2017 and 2019 schedules, but it's not an easy task putting those slates together, says the man in charge.

Who wants to think about 2018? It's so far away. You might be in a totally different life situation then, live in a different city, have new friends by then.

But Martin Jarmond has to think about 2018. In fact, to him, it might as well be tomorrow.

"That's really soon," the Ohio State administrator said last week.

What has him so worried about something that will happen three years down the road?

He's the man in charge of football scheduling at Ohio State, and in a world that generally operates five to 10 years down the road, he must find an opponent for Sept. 22, 2018.

How soon is that? Consider, that's the only open slot for the Buckeyes through 2019, and OSU has out-of-conference foes lined up through the 2024 season after that -- including all three nonconference foes in 2023.

So yeah, he has to get moving now that he's put together the final pieces for 2017 (Army West Point at home) and 2019 (Florida Atlantic in the Horseshoe).

"There's a lot of schools we've contacted already that are either not interested in playing or have already made plans for that. So 2018 is what I'm focused on as well as 2020."

That's the kind of foresight the job requires, and that makes it tough in a world like college football that is ever changing. Predicting who will be good years down the road, all while dealing with the landscape of the sport, can be a tough task.

Consider: The Big Ten and Pac-12 signed a scheduling agreement in December 2011 for their teams to play each other starting in 2017, only to see it unravel seven months later. The Big Ten later went to nine conference games, starting in 2016, taking a nonleague game off the table for each team. And then there's the playoff, which has pushed the Big Ten to consider tougher schedules so as to not meet the Big 12's fate last season.

So things can change quickly. Think of when the Buckeyes played Cal in 2012-13. When the Buckeyes and Golden Bears inked the deal in the mid-2000s, Cal was one of the premier teams on the West Coast. In 2013, the team won just one game.

"A lot of it is just a jigsaw puzzle, but you also have to do your best guesstimate on where teams have been and where you expect them to be," Jarmond said.

"I have a system in place where we look at the last five years, how teams have done, how strong are they competitively, does it make sense to play this kind of team when we have That Team Up North, Michigan State and Wisconsin in the same year? Maybe not. So you have to look at that a little bit."

The nine-game schedule also has an impact, as Ohio State must have seven home games to balance the books. That means when OSU plays five Big Ten road games, it generally has to have all three nonconference games set for Ohio Stadium, such as in 2017 when UNLV, Oklahoma (the second half of a home-and-home with the first game in 2016) and Army West Point coming to town. In 2019, Florida Atlantic, TCU (return game for 2018) and Cincinnati will come to town.

"It makes it more challenging because there's an inventory issue," Jarmond said. "With the nine games and now it's only three (nonconference games), everybody is scrambling to try to get these kinds of games."

Jarmond says he doesn't hear too much from Urban Meyer, who agrees with the philosophy put together by Jarmond and Gene Smith. The Buckeyes generally want to play one blockbuster game and build solid foes around it, such as in 2019, but the 2022 and '23 slates each have Notre Dame and Texas listed. And with the focus on playing a competitive slate, some of the Ohio teams on the docket from years past have started to wane, as OSU has just Bowling Green in 2016 and UC in 2019 set through 2020.

As he said, it's all a puzzle, one that usually comes together in the end. And one of the pieces that the Buckeyes haven't turned to -- and don't plan to turn to -- are neutral site games. Those have exploded in recent years -- Wisconsin will face Alabama in Dallas to start this season -- but Ohio State hasn't pulled that trigger yet despite being asked previously.

"It has to work financially for us because of our stadium," Jarmond said. "We would be sacrificing a little more than Purdue would or even Wisconsin would. Not every neutral site venue can provide us with the kind of return that we would need. Also, we're huge economically here, and that's something that's important to Gene to not take a home game away with everything that goes on in Central Ohio. We just haven't had the situation where we wanted to pull the trigger."

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