Thursday, September 15, 2016

Buckeyes Preview 9.16.16: Ohio State @ Oklahoma

By Jason Disantis, @JasonInCLE

The third ranked Ohio State Buckeyes (2-0,) are headed to Norman to take on the #14 Oklahoma Sooners (1-1) this Saturday night, in what will be a true test for the young but talented Buckeyes.

Oklahoma started this season with National Championship hopes after losing in the playoffs a year ago and returning their Heisman hopeful quarterback, Baker Mayfield.  Those hopes took a big hit after losing the first game of the season to Houston.  Whether the Sooners were caught looking ahead to Ohio State, didn't give Houston the respect they deserved, or flat out got beat by a better team, Oklahoma's chances of heading back to the playoffs took an unexpected hit the first game of the year.

The good news for the Sooners is it is better to lose early than late.  They have time to climb back up in the polls and if they can beat Ohio State and run the table for a Big 12 Championship they should find themselves in the top four at the end of the year and in the college football playoffs.  If Oklahoma falls again it will end the hopes for a National Championship for themselves and the Big 12.  Short of Charlie Strong having a dream season at Texas I don't see any other team from the Big 12 getting consideration for the playoffs other than Oklahoma.

For the Buckeyes, their real season starts Saturday night.  In all honesty Ohio State plays better competition in practice than they did in the first two weeks of the season.  And after breaking down the talent on both of these teams, Ohio State should win this game comfortably.  But the Buckeyes are young an inexperienced, and Oklahoma is coming off of a playoff loss where they returned most of their starters.

To win this game Ohio State will have to stop Sooners junior quarterback Baker Mayfield and the one-two punch of junior and sophomore running backs Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon.  Despite being known as somewhat of a maverick at quarterback Mayfield completes a high percentage of his throws (71.7% this year) and has thrown for 567 yards and 5 touchdowns thus far.  Mayfield was a part of some off season Heisman discussion which has died down since the beginning of the season.

Oklahoma will roll out the best running back tandem in college football with Perine and Mixon.  Although Perine has led the Sooners in rushing the last two years, Mixon is the most talented player on Oklahoma.  Mixon leads the Sooners with 157 yards rushing averaging 7.9 yards/carry and 1 touchdown.  Perine has 89 yards on the year and 2 touchdowns.

The Silver Bullet defense has truly earned that name this year as they have yet to give up a touchdown.  Led by junior linebacker Raekwon McMillan the Buckeyes will look to shut down the running game of Oklahoma.  Also be sure to keep an eye on defensive ends Sam Hubbard and Tyquan Lewis as they'll try to disrupt Mayfield and force him into some mistakes for dynamic free safety Malik Hooker and shut-down corner Gareon Conely to take advantage of.  With quarterbacks avoiding Conley so far this season sophomore cornerback Marshon Lattimore has been able to take full advantage with two interceptions on the season.

Offensively J.T. Barrett will have to play his best game of the season.  If the young offensive line of the Buckeyes led by senior center Pat Elflein can handle the talented and athletic front of Oklahoma then Barrett should be able to keep the Sooners defense on their heels by getting the ball to Noah Brown, Dontre Wilson, and Curtis Samuel in space while mixing in a healthy dose of ground-and-pound with Mike Weber. Offensively the Buckeyes should be able to score some points and put some pressure on Oklahoma to keep up.

As I said earlier, based on talent alone Ohio State should win this game comfortably.  The big question is whether or not being in front of 73,000 screaming fans in Norman, under the lights on a Saturday night will be too much for the young Buckeyes.  The leadership of J.T. Barrett and Raekwon McMillan will be tested as they try to ready their sides of the ball for the Sooners.  If Ohio State can stay in the moment and handle the adrenaline of the first couple minutes then I think they will be in good shape to walk out of Oklahoma with a victory.  

What:  #3 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. #14 Oklahoma Sooners
When:  Saturday September 17, 2016 at 7:30 PM ET
Where:  Memorial Stadium, Norman, Oklahoma
Watch:  FOX
Line:  Spread (Ohio State -2), Money Line (OSU -125, OU +105), Over/Under (64)

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