Ohio State travels to Norman, Oklahoma, in a game widely anticipated throughout college football. The contract for this series was signed back in January 2008, when the majority of these players were still in grade school, and Jim Tressel was patrolling the sidelines for Ohio State. Oklahoma has been fortunate to have the same head coach in 2008 still on the sidelines in Bob Stoops. Stoops has been Oklahoma’s head coach since 1999 – for those of us able to remember, and I count myself in this category, Stoops quickly resurrected an Oklahoma program that had become utterly despondent under predecessors Gary Gibbs, Howard Schnellenberger, and John Blake. Oklahoma won the BCS Championship in 2000, and has played for the national championship in 2003, 2005, and 2008. In 2015, Oklahoma qualified as a College Football Playoff team, playing Clemson in a first-round Orange Bowl game.
You may recall that I had ranked this game at Oklahoma as the toughest game on Ohio State’s 2016 schedule. In case you have forgotten, here were the words I used to explain my ranking ~ “One of the best advantages Ohio State has going into this game is the fact that Houston, led by former Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman, is facing Oklahoma two weeks prior to this game. Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer will be able to watch intently as to what worked, and did not work, against the Sooners. Consequently, Oklahoma Head Coach Bob Stoops is also going to be able to take advantage of this with his squad, being able to prepare the Sooners for whatever offensive wrinkles Ohio State tries to throw at them.”.
Taking away anything that Tom Herman may have shared with Urban Meyer, below are three distinct areas I will be paying close attention to as this one gets underway at 7:30pm EST on Fox…
- Oklahoma’s running game against Ohio State’s rush defense: Yes, yes, I know all about Baker Mayfield. I am not taking anything away from the Sooner daredevil quarterback. I am most concerned about Oklahoma’s formidable trio of Samaje Perine, Joe Mixon, and Abdul Adams being able to pound the ball against Ohio State’s inexperienced interior defensive line. I will become more than concerned if Oklahoma is able to consistently run the ball on first down, and wind up facing 2nd and 4 or 2nd and 3. Ohio State needs to shut down the Oklahoma running attack, or at least keep the Sooners in obvious passing situations.
- Curtis Samuel is the key to Ohio State’s offense against Oklahoma: Ohio State will not have the luxury of waiting until the second half to discover that Curtis Samuel has only touched the ball one time in the first half, as the Buckeyes did in their victory over Tulsa in week two. Regardless of whether Samuel is involved as a checkdown option for J.T. Barrett on passing downs, or used to spell Mike Weber as a running threat, Ohio State must involve Samuel early and often against Oklahoma in order for the Buckeyes to be successful.
- Beware The Wounded Animal: Oklahoma lost its first game of the season to Houston, and knows that with another loss, any possibility of a repeat trip to The College Football Playoff will be lost. Ohio State needs to be prepared to take Oklahoma’s best shot, as well as prepare for the unexpected on both sides of the ball in this game.
Ohio State won easily in its season opener against Bowling Green, and was able to move past a sluggish first half to defeat Tulsa convincingly in week two. While Tulsa never truly put a scare into the Buckeyes, the fact that Ohio State had to adjust and overcome some adversity against an opponent is a building block for such a young and inexperienced team. I think this one will come down to the wire, but I am thinking the hero of this one is going to be Ohio State PK Tyler Durbin, the walk-on of whom Coach Meyer has jokingly suggested that Meyer does not even know his name. It could be up to Durbin to win it for the Buckeyes, which makes me think Coach Meyer would certainly know him from that point on. I have it Ohio State 27, Oklahoma 24.