The Ohio State Buckeyes got off to a surprisingly slow start against Tulsa. However, lessons learned from that game will help this Saturday against Oklahoma.
Another slow start didn’t stop another Ohio State blowout win over Tulsa. While the first half was nothing to be happy about, second half adjustments and a defensive statement made the difference. So what did we learn in Week 2 for the upcoming showdown in Norman for the Ohio State Oklahoma game?
Lesson 1: The young Buckeye defense might actually be that good
It was easy to dismiss the performance against Bowling Green as just overwhelming talent. Tulsa was supposed to field one of the better offenses in the country with so much returning fire power and a former Baylor coach calling the shots. Apparently, Greg Schiano and his Silver Bullets didn’t care.
With interceptions by Malik Hooker (again) and Marshon Lattimore, the secondary is showing that the talent is overcoming the inexperience in the backfield. By holding Dane Evans to 127 passing yards and returning two of his passes for touchdowns, the Buckeye secondary is making a case for the best in the Big Ten and perhaps one of the best in the country
Against Oklahoma, this defense will see the best quarterback it will face all season in Baker Mayfield. While the receiving talent isn’t quite what it was in 2015, Mayfield is the real deal and will be savvy enough to find whatever weaknesses he can read from the secondary. But after watching both Oklahoma struggle against Houston and the Buckeye secondary show their skills, the coaching staffs on each side have to be reevaluating their scouting reports against one another.
Lesson 2: The offense isn’t quite there yet
We knew there would be some bumps in the road, but didn’t expect it against a Tulsa defense expected to be one of the worst in the country. Thankfully, the defense put up points. The Buckeye offense didn’t until J.T. Barrett‘s rushing touchdown with 9:42 on the clock in the 3rd quarter. The slow start is easy to overcome against an overmatched opponent. Oklahoma, though, is in a different class than Bowling Green and Tulsa.
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Even in the loss to Houston, Baker Mayfield threw for 323 yards and 2 scores. If the Buckeye offense doesn’t press the Sooners early, the result will be very different from the Tulsa contest. Part of what made the Houston Cougars so successful is that they had the ball for 35:06, nearly ten minutes of game time more than Oklahoma. If Ohio State can manage the clock the way Tom Herman‘s group did, that’s a major factor in coming away from Norman with a win.
Lesson 3: Ohio State still attacks best on the ground
Barrett still locks onto receivers. Additionally, he looks for a certain routes too much. I understand trying to get your young playmakers the ball and get them some confidence, but you go with what works. Right now, that’s Mike Weber, Curtis Samuel, and Barrett on the ground. For the Buckeyes, this is far and away their best strategy, having gone for 627 yards on the ground in two games.
Against Oklahoma, it will be strength on strength. The Sooner rushing defense is far better than it’s passing defense. Against the pass, Oklahoma is currently 112th in the nation giving up 593 yards in two games. On the ground, they are 28th giving up only 167 yards.
But it goes hand in hand with what was mentioned above. Ohio State has to control the clock and the fact of the matter is that right now, Ohio State’s most efficient attack is on the ground. By being able to establish the run, Barrett can relax and pick his spots better. He has historically been much better in a run first, throw second approach. That’s part of why he is so good playing with a lead and in the red zone where both options have to be accounted for.
There’s a lot to prepare for this week for Urban Meyer and company. But if we’ve learned anything, it’s that Meyer will be prepared and ready to adjust should something happen. It’s easily the biggest week of practice for the Buckeyes in 2016.