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An eighth-straight bowl appearance is possible if the Tigers can overcome a rugged schedule that has them on the road seven of 11 weekends and includes six 1974 bowl teams. "We have not always been a good road team," Jordan says. "This year we have to be."
This year, more than any other, they will probably want to be.
Woody Hayes undoubtedly would prefer something more traditional for his silver-anniversary year at Ohio State, but there it is—the prospect of an honest-to-goodness tough schedule starting with the opening kickoff. The last time an OSU schedule was rugged enough to worry Woody, Archie Griffin was learning to walk.
It has never been Hayes' practice to test his team early in the season, or at all, if he could avoid it. While Oklahoma may challenge a USC, or Nebraska a UCLA, Hayes has played it safe, clobbering nonconference cripples or Big Ten also-rans right up to the annual season-ending vendetta with Michigan.
This year, however, the Buckeyes open against Michigan State in East Lansing, which soon may replace Ann Arbor as the town Woody hates most in the state Woody hates most. The Bucks have lost two straight in Spartan Stadium, including last season's 16-13 stunner that cost them their No. 1 ranking. Revenge, which might be a powerful force in other years, may not be enough this time because the Spartans suspect it was Hayes who called attention to MSU's alleged recruiting violations, now the subject of an NCAA inquiry.
After MSU, Ohio State plays Penn State, North Carolina and UCLA in Los Angeles before returning to the Big Ten, where downtrodden Northwestern has been replaced by Purdue. As usual, the Michigan game will be the season finale, this year in Ann Arbor where the Buckeyes have not won since 1967.
The squad has lost 13 starters, eight of them defensive players, so the first few games should be especially revealing. As in other recent seasons, Hayes will make liberal use of freshmen, hoping that they mature rapidly, as did Nick Buonamici, a 6'3", 236-pound junior defensive tackle who was the terror of spring practice. Another proven performer is Safety Tim Fox.
While Ohio State will be extremely young, Columbus fans will have little trouble recognizing the offensive backfield. Headed by Heisman Trophy winner Griffin, who has rushed for 4,139 yards and 22 touchdowns, it includes fellow seniors Cornelius Greene at quarterback and Brian Baschnagel on the wing, with junior Pete Johnson ensconced at fullback. Figure Archie for a lot of carries. Woody does.
Griffin's brother Ray, a sophomore who is faster than Archie and too valuable to play behind him, has been moved to safety. Secondary Coach Dick Walker, who tutored Jack Tatum, says Ray "has the potential to be the best hitter I've ever had."