- Austin Ward, ESPN Staff Writer
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Presented with perhaps an easy way out, Ohio State instead is reinforcing its emphasis on beefing up its schedule heading into the playoff era.
The move to a nine-game slate in the Big Ten means everybody in the league will have to be a bit choosier with its opponents outside the league, and for teams such as the Buckeyes who already had four squads lined up to fill slots in 2016, that also means casting one game aside.
It could have worked to cancel a series with Oklahoma, a home-and-home arrangement that starts with what figures to be a difficult road trip to visit the perennial power. That would have left three games which would seemingly be far more manageable in the Horseshoe against Bowling Green, Tulsa and Central Michigan ahead of conference play. But the Buckeyes instead kept the high-profile matchup intact with the Sooners, and according to the Columbus Dispatch on Tuesday, they have sent a letter to Central Michigan informing the program that its services are no longer required.
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith has made it clear recently that strength of schedule is a priority for him, particularly with its likely importance in determining playoff participants as college football shifts away from the Bowl Championship Series. He's recently added future meetings with Texas, TCU and Oregon, and the Buckeyes also have dates lined up with North Carolina, Cincinnati and Boston College as part of an effort to eventually play teams exclusively from the power conferences.
The Buckeyes aren't quite to that point yet. But Ohio State has proved again that the shift in approach for the Big Ten schedule won't change its approach to adding marquee games -- or keeping them.
4dBrian Bennett and Josh Moyer