This Saturday’s matchup between Oklahoma and Ohio State has been billed as one of the can’t miss games of the 2017 season. Much like the 2016 contest was billed as one of the can’t miss games of the season, until Oklahoma melted down in the season opener against Houston, and basically got run off the field against the Buckeyes in Norman.
Sooner fans were left shaking their heads in defeat last season, but this season brings new expectations, and with Oklahoma bringing in some momentum after obliterating UTEP, it would appear their confidence level is much higher going into this year’s matchup.
Now will that confidence be enough to get a win in the Shoe? That is to be determined on Saturday. But if Oklahoma does want to get that big win that they and the Big 12 need, a few key players are going to have to step up to ensure the Sooners get what they came for.
Mark Andrews – After the big fella’s big day in the opener against UTEP, this one seems kind of obvious. Andrews is a matchup nightmare for all most any defense. The guy is big, long, and has some good speed for his 6’5″, 254 pound frame. Last week he snagged seven catches for 134 yards and a touchdown. More than likely the Ohio State defense will have some answers for the tight end, but he is too big of a target for the Buckeyes to ignore, so look for Oklahoma to definitely go to him often, but possibly use him as a decoy to get other guys involved.
Jeff Badet – The speedy transfer from Kentucky did not disappoint Sooner fans last Saturday. Badet grabbed four catches for 91 yards, including a very impressive, acrobatic 51-yard catch that was a bit under thrown. His speed was obvious, so his speed will be important against a very talented, and inexperienced, Ohio State secondary. If Badet can manage to find separation from the Ohio State defensive backs, and get into space for Baker Mayfield to throw him the ball, he could have a really big day.
Dimitri Flowers – Possibly the most versatile player on the Oklahoma offense, Dimitri Flowers should be on the field a lot on Saturday, and he will more than likely be used in all sorts of ways. His run blocking will be valuable to help pave the way with that big offensive line in order to get the running backs some holes, and his pass blocking to help give Baker Mayfield time to throw against that defense could make a huge difference in the game.
His ability to catch the ball out of the back field, and at times when he lines up in the slot or out wide, gives the Sooners another weapon against this talented defense. But possibly the biggest area where Flowers could make a difference, is running the ball. Last week against UTEP, Lincoln Riley added a new wrinkle in which we saw three fullbacks lineup in a special jumbo package that many Sooners fans were unfamiliar with. Going up against the best defensive line in college football, it only makes sense to get some big fellas lined up in the backfield and pound that ball.
Caleb Kelly – Oklahoma’s defense was downright horrid at times last season. It was not until Caleb Kelly began to see the field in the final six games, when that defense finally began to look different. Kelly brings a very physical presence for this defense, (just ask the Auburn Tigers). He happens to be a supreme pass rusher as well, so if he can get JT Barrett flustered enough to make some poor decisions, there really is not much more you can ask for than that.
Neville Gallimore – The Oklahoma defensive line got pushed around last season against the Buckeyes to say the least. The Sooners gave up 291 yards rushing last year, and if they want to have a shot to win, that number needs to be much, much lower. Gallimore is probably the most talented lineman Oklahoma has on that defense, so in order to plug those gaps and keep those Buckeye running backs from getting yards like last season, Gallimore needs to set the tone early and often.
Parnell Motley – JT Barrett exposed Oklahoma’s cornerback position last season, as the Sooners were breaking in a new starter opposite Jordan Thomas. The Sooners are once again breaking in a new starter opposite Jordan Thomas this season, and it happens to be Parnell Motley, who wowed coaches and teammates all through spring and fall practices. Nicknamed “DC Island,” Motley needs to be sure he doesn’t get lost out there, like Parrish Cobb did last season. Jordan Thomas is a four-year starter, he knows what he’s doing on that opposite corner spot, so Motley will more than likely be tested often, so he really needs to have a stellar game in order for Oklahoma to get it done.
This game has the chance to reset the perception of the Big 12 if Oklahoma can win. After the opening weekend the conference had, and the non-conference the Big 12 had last season, this game is extremely important from a national perception standpoint. With all that being said, Oklahoma, the Big 12 turns its lonely eyes to you.