The fifth ranked Sooners will travel to Columbus to take on the second ranked Buckeyes in a key early-season fight.
Fans were treated to a big game to start the year between Alabama and Florida State. The Tide won by a score of 21-7 and the game was a defensive battle from start to end. This week’s premier game will be anything but a defensive matchup. Oklahoma and Ohio State come into this game both 1-0 after scoring 56 and 49 points respectively against their Week 1 opponents. Not only will this game factor into the playoff rankings come season’s end, but the Sooners are also looking for revenge.
In 2016, the Buckeyes marched into Norman and completely demolished Oklahoma in a 45-24 win. Ohio State was able to pick up 443 total yards, and while their quarterback J.T. Barrett threw for four touchdowns, his counterpart struggled. Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield had his worst game of the season completing only 53.1 percent of his passes throwing for two touchdowns and two interceptions. The Sooners haven’t lost since that game and will look to continue their streak in the Horseshoe.
Here are some key matchups to watch entering this top flight showdown.
Baker Mayfield vs. Ohio State’s Secondary
In last year’s game, the Buckeye secondary wrecked havoc on Mayfield forcing two interceptions, only his third of four multi-interception games in his career. That Ohio State secondary had three players selected in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, players which accounted for 15 of the team’s 21 interceptions. Their replacements’ first test didn’t go so well.
Indiana QB Richard Laglow was picked off twice but still managed to throw for 410 yards and three touchdowns. This was Laglow’s second 400-yard passing game of his career, with the other coming last season against Wake Forest. If a mediocre quarterback like Laglow can have early success, then an elite gunslinger like Mayfield should be able to take full advantage.
Why Baker Mayfield was PFF’s pick for Heisman runner-up pic.twitter.com/Uc9ul7BTQv— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) December 11, 2016
Despite losing his top target last season in Dede Westbrook, Mayfield didn’t seem to mind in Week 1 against UTEP. He only played the first half but threw for 329 yards and three touchdowns while completing 95% of his passes. PFF even gave Mayfield the highest grade (86) among draft-eligible quarterbacks.
Without playmakers like Marshon Lattimore, Malik Hooker, and Gareon Conley it will be tough for Ohio State to slow down Mayfield. Top Oklahoma target tight end Mark Andrews will be the center of attention for the Buckeyes, but look for Kentucky transfer Jeff Badet to show his worth as a down-field threat and take advantage of an inexperienced OSU secondary.
Oklahoma’s Offensive Line vs. Ohio State Defensive Line
The big guys up front finally get the attention they deserve. Even with all the hype surrounding Mayfield and Barrett, the game will be won in the trenches with two dominant units on both sides of the ball.
Oklahoma is lucky enough to return all five starters along their offensive line and helped the Sooners pave the way for two 1,000-yard rushers last season. Ohio State, on the other hand, returns numerous starters along a front that had 39 tackles for loss and 18.5 sacks. Both teams have very talented linemen, but the battle to watch will be between Oklahoma’s All-American tackle Orlando Brown, and Ohio State Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year Tyquan Lewis.
Tho OSU edge defenders give O-line fits.— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) September 8, 2017
How will Oklahoma T Orlando Brown fare against them, in particular Tyquan Lewis on Saturday? pic.twitter.com/cV30M4F8DD
Brown has started the last 26 games at left tackle for the Sooners and is one of the best in the country. PFF graded him as the seventh-highest draft-eligible tackle with an 86.8 ranking. Where Brown really excels is in pass blocking, grading out at a 98.9 pass block efficiency. Keeping Mayfield upright is key for Oklahoma, and Brown is the main man to do it.
Despite picking up only 10 sacks in 2016, Lewis is an edge rushing extraordinaire. He registered 51 total hurries last season on 306 rushes. Lewis ranks eighth among draft-eligible edge rushers with a 13.3 in pass rush productivity, which measures pressure created on a per snap basis with a weighting towards sacks. He also excels coming to the blindside of the QB, ranking second among returning edge rushers in pressures from the left at 43.
Ohio State’s Running Game vs. Oklahoma’s Defense
I talked a lot so far about Oklahoma’s powerful offense against Ohio State’s elite defense, but that only tells half the story. I would be remiss if I didn’t dive into the battle between Oklahoma’s defense against the Buckeye offense, more specifically the run game.
Last season the Sooners gave up 291 rushing yards to the Buckeyes with 197 of those yards coming from Barrett (74) and running back Mike Webber (123). This year it might be more of the same. The Buckeyes return four starters along their offensive line and finished 11th in 2016 averaging 245.2 rushing yards per game. Mike Weber was slated as the starter, but an injury opened up the door for J.K Dobbins who rushed for 181 yards on 29 carries last week.
BTN (@OhioStateOnBTN) September 1, 2017
Oklahoma’s defense struggled against the run in 2016, giving up 160.8 yards per game on the ground. The defensive line is led by Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and Neville Gallimore. Okoronkwo is one of the best edge rushers in the Big 12, but that won’t do the Sooners a lot of good in the running game. Gallimore is only a redshirt sophomore and still growing, but only picked up four tackles for loss last season. The linebacking group of freshman Kenneth Murray and senior Emmanuel Beal doesn’t take much pressure off the front four and could have their hands full with a powerful running attack of Ohio State.
Overall this will be a great matchup between two of the best teams in the country. If the Alabama-Florida State game wasn’t the game of the year, this one may very well be. There are stars all across the field on both sides for both teams. Oklahoma loves their offense and will be looking to simply outscore the Buckeyes. Ohio State’s offense might not be as good, but with an experienced QB in Barrett and a dynamic duo of Dobbins and Webber at running back, it’ll be tough for Oklahoma to stop. The x-factor is Ohio State’s defense. Despite losing star power in the secondary, the defensive line can do enough to disrupt Mayfield and throw him off his game just slightly. I see Ohio State taking this matchup again in a high scoring affair.
Edited by Jeremy Losak.
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