Oklahoma star quarterback Baker Mayfield, when asked earlier this week about the Sooners’ 21 point loss to Ohio State last season in the second week of the year, refereed to the loss as “embarrassing”. He made reference to two specific incidents at that game in Norman as sticking in his head for the last year: Ohio State’s fans chanting “O-H-I-O” late in the game, as the Buckeyes put the Sooners away, and after the game, when Ohio State players gathered, as they do after every game, to sing the school alma mater, Carmen Ohio, with the Buckeye fans that remained. When talking, specifically about the alma mater, Mayfield told Tulsa World that ““Everybody that was here for last year’s huge loss definitely remembers that. And we talked about it during camp”.
If those comments from the senior leader of the Oklahoma Sooners don’t indicate it, I’ll spell it out for you: Oklahoma wants revenge, and is confident they can topple the number two ranked Buckeyes in their own house on Saturday night. This game, in fact, has so much intrigue, both from thew revenge aspect and from the fact that this is a matchup of two top ten teams early on in the year, that ESPN’s College Gameday crew will be in Columbus on Saturday, rather than at other marquee matchups like Auburn Clemson or Notre Dame Georgia.
DATE & TIME: SAT, SEP 9 at 6:30 PM CT
WHERE: Ohio Stadium (Columbus, OH)
FORECAST: Partly cloudy, mid 50s
STREAM: Watch ESPN
BETTING LINE: OSU -7.5
The Sooners really couldn’t have looked much better in their week one season opener at home, as they hosted the UTEP Miners. Despite playing for just a little over half the game, Baker Mayfield dominated an obviously overpowered UTEP defense, ass he completed all but one of his 20 passing attempts, compiling 329 yards and three touchdowns. His favorite target, junior tight end Mark Andrews, had seven receptions for 134 yards and a touchdown, and his performance has sprouted plenty of optimism about his role on this team. Kentucky transfer Jeff Badet was solid as well for the Sooners, hauling in four passes for 91 yards, and establishing himself as probably the number one receiver.
Outside of the passing game, Oklahoma didn’t really need to do much on offense. Running backs Abdul Adams and Rodney Anderson are expected to lead the rushing attack for the Sooners this year, and while neither was great, neither really needed to be, as they combined for just 11 carries. Backup halfbacks Trey Sermon and Marcelias Sutton shouldered much of the load once the game was already out of reach.
Defensively, Oklahoma looked really solid. They only allowed one score, on UTEP’s first drive of the game, and held the Miners to a paltry 167 yards and only 11 first downs on the day. Obviously, Ohio State and UTEP are two very different beasts, but after one game of the Lincoln Riley era, Oklahoma fans have plenty of reasons for confidence heading into the game this Saturday.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Feed Mark Andrews – Ohio State struggled greatly in the first half of their game against Indiana last Thursday, thanks in large part to Indiana’s passing attack, led by 6-foot-4 star receiver Simmie Cobbs. Ohio State lost three starters out of their defensive backfield last year, and while new starters Damon Arnette and Kendall Sheffield were both blue chip recruits, their inexperience showed greatly in man coverage against the taller Cobbs. If Oklahoma can find a way to get Mark Andrews in one on one situations with any of Ohio State’s corners, Oklahoma could be in for a big day.
Dare JT Barrett To Beat You – JT Barrett is one of the best runners, and leader in the country, especially at the quarterback position. When the game is on the line, JT Barrett almost always steps up, and he’s shown that time and time again. However, something JT Barrett hasn’t shown since he broke his ankle in his freshman season, is the ability to consistently complete passes downfield. Ohio State’s struggle with finding offensive explosive threats last season is well documented, and while some of the blame can certainly be chalked up to coaching, Barrett has not yet proven he can get the ball to his playmakers downfield. Oklahoma’s defense will probably (definitely) struggle against the two-headed monster that is JK Dobbins and Mike Weber in the backfield, but if they can make Ohio State one-dimensional, this is a winnable football game.
Don’t Be Afraid To Air It Out – Ohio State might have the best front seven in the country. The defensive line returns pretty much everybody, and sports three of the best backups in the nation in Jayln Holmes, Nick Bosa and Chase Young. The linebacking corps may have lost Raekwon McMillan, but its packed to the brim with five-star talent. With that in mind, and Oklahoma’s inexperience at halfback showing against a bad team like UTEP, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which Oklahoma will be able to consistently run on Ohio State. It’s never a good idea to go into a game planning to be one-dimensional, but when Baker Mayfield is on your team, sometimes you have to just trust him to go win you a football game against an inexperienced defensive backfield.
I think Oklahoma has the highest ceiling of any team in the Big 12 this year, as they have for the last few years. While Oklahoma State’s offense is great, and Kansas State is as consistent as always, I just don’t see the potential for success like I see with Oklahoma. As the season continues on, the youth at running back, wide receiver, and on the defense will only improve, and by the time Bedlam rolls around, Oklahoma will likely be a top ten team, and one of the best in the nation, just like last year.
With that being said, I think Oklahoma, just like last year, caught the Buckeyes at the wrong time. A talent disparity is far easier to overcome late in the season rather than early, and with these week one or week two top ten matchups, the winner almost always have to grind out a victory based on sheer talent, and Ohio State is simply far more talented than Oklahoma is. The Buckeyes have four and five-star recruits all over the field, and while Oklahoma obviously has plenty of talent, they just aren’t on the level of schools like Ohio State, Alabama, Clemson or Florida State.
If this game happens again, perhaps in late December, I think the result might be very different. But, as this game will be played in just a few days, on September 9th, in one of the loudest stadiums in America, I can’t help but pick against the Sooners. I have Ohio State winning a close one, thanks to their dominant rushing attack, stout front seven, and the veteran leadership of JT Barrett.