Potentially the best game on the Ohio State schedule is now just hours away from kickoff.
The most anticipated game of the early season for Buckeye fans is here. There’s no way to undervalue the importance of the prime time tilt in Norman for an Ohio State team that is loaded with talent, but short on experience.
This game, against one of the better quarterbacks and coaches in college football, will be the first chance to see what this Ohio State team is truly capable of. Factory of Sadness has what to watch for with Ohio State and Oklahoma
1. Baker Mayfield is the best quarterback Ohio State will see all year
Mayfield, win or lose, is not overrated. Say he is another system quarterback at Oklahoma or that it’s the product of the spread, but watch the tape. Mayfield makes the throws and uses his feet better than almost any quarterback in the country.
He got outplayed by Houston Cougars’ Greg Ward in Week 1, but it wasn’t as if he was the reason the Sooners lost. 323 yards and two scores couldn’t overcome getting sacked five times. Not to mention watching his offensive line get abused by Houston true freshman defensive lineman Ed Oliver.
In order to contain him, defensive coordinator Greg Schiano is going to keep his front seven attacking from different spots on the line. Again, Houston exposed the Sooner offensive line, which is as young and inexperienced as Ohio State’s. To keep Mayfield in check, Ohio State has to win that match-up as well.
2. Barometer time for the Silver Bullets
The Ohio State defense has not allowed a touchdown all season. While I doubt anyone expects that streak to continue against Oklahoma, this game allows the chance to prove that their incredible first two weeks are for real.
They’ve only surrendered 151 yards per game in the air and 65 yards per game on the ground. That 151 yards/game against the pass is astounding given how often the Buckeyes have forced teams to air it out.
Much of that success is the young Buckeye secondary, where Malik Hooker is tied for the national lead with three interceptions. Aside from Hooker, Gareon Conley has stepped up his play and Marshon Lattimore is finally showing his talented ability.
Great performances against Tulsa and Bowling Green only mean so much. But a stand out effort against Oklahoma in prime time? That will be a major announcement that the young Buckeyes have arrived.
3. Jordan Thomas is a stand out corner for the Sooners
After a five interception 2015, big things were and still are expected for Thomas. The Houston game was not his finest performance, but the talent there is real. His issues have always been off the field, having earned multiple suspensions. He also drew a critical personal foul against Houston that kept a scoring drive alive.
Just don’t let the knuckle-headed stuff cloud the evaluation of Thomas. He is the best cover man the Sooners have. With the way the Sooners defend the run, Ohio State must be successful through the air to sustain drives.
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That means challenging Thomas from time to time and getting the inexperienced Buckeye receivers in winning situations. If Thomas is occupied with the likes of Noah Brown and K.J. Hill, that means a safety or third corner on running back Curtis Samuel.
4. Don’t Sleep on Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon
Looking at their respective numbers so far doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the Oklahoma backfield. Perine, the team’s highest profile runner, has only 89 yards on the ground so far in 2016.
This comes after 1,349 in 2015 and 1,713 in 2014. Mixon leads the Sooners in 2016 with 157 yards rushing after a freshman campaign in 2015 where he ran for 753 yards.
The Buckeyes have been great against the run, but Perine and Mixon are in another class than any back the Ohio State defense has seen. Mayfield gets a lot of deserved attention, but both of the Sooner running backs are capable of being a leading man when the time calls. Schiano will have his defense ready to stop Mayfield. That said, he can’t discount the potential for a breakout game by Perine against a Buckeye defense best suited to stop the pass.
5. Tyquan Lewis and Sam Hubbard will dominate
Mayfield may be elusive, but he’s had to run for his life early in 2015. Houston placed two guys in the top five nationally in sacks and the rest of their teammates feasted on a rebuilt Sooner offensive line.
The Buckeyes are young, but incredibly deep up front. Defensive lineman Dre’Mont Jones himself is built in the mold of Oliver, a quick twitch interior lineman that causes enough havoc for the edge rushers to come free.
As a result, defensive linemen Sam Hubbard and Tyquan Lewis will be in a great position to box Mayfield in and force the issue. Hubbard flashed against Tulsa and Lewis is primed to show why he led this team in sacks in 2015.
If those two are able to at least get hits on Mayfield, that allows the Buckeye secondary to ball-hawk and cause turnovers, which is exactly what Schiano’s scheme is all about.
This will be the first game under 40 points for the Buckeyes because Oklahoma will be able to stay on the field longer than Tulsa or BGSU. Like Ward, Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett‘s dual threat ability will keep the Sooner defense on their heels enough to keep Mayfield on the sidelines.
Final Score: Ohio State 38 – Oklahoma 31