One of the most exciting and highly anticipated games is set to kickoff this Saturday in Norman. Oklahoma will stripe the stadium, though that might not be the most impressive fan feat coming into this game. Ohio State is renting Oklahoma’s basketball arena, Lloyd Noble Center, for a pep rally. The pep rally is sold out, though a Ohio State spokesman has said that they will just be using the court. Regardless, that’s a certified baller move from Ohio State’s alumni association. If you go into someone else’s city and fill their own court with your fans, that’ll likely get the home team’s attention.
Ohio State fans are known to travel very well, so it will be interesting to see the kind of turnout in Norman. The fans aren’t the only people travelling from Columbus, and they certainly aren’t the most important either. Urban Meyer leads a young, but very talented 2-0 Buckeye team into Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
Date/Time: September 17/6:30 PM CST
Where: Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium
Forecast: Scattered thunderstorms, high of 82, low of 65
Betting Line: Ohio State -2.5
Oklahoma is coming into this game 1-1 on the season, fresh off a blowout win over UL Monroe. They fell down the polls after the loss to Houston, but they are still ranked 14th in both the AP and Coaches poll. Ohio State provides an opportunity to get right back into the thick of things at the top.
Led by Baker Mayfield at quarterback, Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon at halfback, the Sooners looked to have gotten their offense on track. Something they’ll need to continue to have any chance against a stiff Buckeye defensive front.
Defensively, Jordan Evans at linebacker and Ahmed Thomas at safety anchor the secondary. Ohio State has plenty of offensive weapons of their own, so if the Sooners want to return to Playoff contention, those two guys will need to have a big day.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Stuff The Run: Both teams have a prolific running attack, and while Oklahoma’s running backs are better, Ohio State’s lines (offensive and defensive) are better than Oklahoma’s.
The Buckeyes rank 9th in the nation on the ground, and are averaging 6.09 yards a rush. Those stats are a little skewed considering who they have played, but if Ohio State finds success in the run game, it could be a long day for the Sooners.
Win Third Down: The Buckeyes are eighth in the country converting third downs, which doesn’t bode well for a team that struggled to get Houston off the field just two weeks ago.
On the flip side, the Sooners’ offense needs to keep drives alive. OU is just 11 for 23 on third down, but Lincoln Riley has kept his workhorse backs in the stable much of the first two games. He’ll need to let them run a bit in order to keep those chains moving forward. Getting the defense rest will be crucial to the outcome of this one.
Don’t Make Mistakes: This is true in any game, but when both teams are this talented, you absolutely cannot afford to make silly mistakes that will give the other team an advantage.
The Sooners are averaging 9 penalties per game which has cost them 96 yards on average. That’s not great, but if the Buckeyes have a weakness, it is that they have been undisciplined early. They are averaging twice as many penalties as the Sooners per game.
Limiting mistakes also means limiting turnovers, and winning the turnover battle. So far, Ohio State has done a better job of that. They lead the nation in turnover margin at +7, while, on average, Oklahoma is giving away one more turnover than they earn.
Both teams are very good. This is not groundbreaking journalism, or a new discovery, but it does matter because it means things that aren’t the players will have a far bigger impact on the game. Things like home field advantage, will Oklahoma, as an underdog, play with a chip on their shoulder, coaching advantage and so on.
With that in mind, I think that Oklahoma will win if the game is close in the 4th quarter. Unfortunately for the Sooners, I don’t think it will be close, I have Ohio State winning this one in a blowout.