It’s the biggest game of a stacked Week 3 of the college football season.
For Ohio State, a win at Oklahoma would declare, uniequvicbally, that it hasn’t lost a step despite massive roster attrition, and is a frontrunner in the race to reach the College Football Playoff.
For Oklahoma, a win keeps the CFB dream alive, and puts it right back into the thick of things, while a loss effectively ends its national title hopes.
It doesn’t get much bigger than that, and in an unpredictable contest, here are the 5 questions that will go a long way to determining the outcome:
Will Oklahoma run the ball?
The Sooners have two of the best running backs in the nation — they should let them pull the team’s cart. With Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon, there’s no reason Oklahoma shouldn’t be a power-running team, but against Houston, the two combined for 12 carries.
The duo was a back on track against Louisiana-Monroe, but frankly Bob Stoops could have run for 75 yards against the Warhawks.
Will the Sooners establish the run against a tough Ohio State defense? Given the strength of the backs, and the Sooners' other offensive limitations — plus the value of time of possession in Saturday’s game — it would be in their best interest to do so.
Is Curtis Samuel the real deal?
Samuel has done it all for the Buckeyes to start the season — being equal parts running back and receiver in the Buckeyes’ dynamic offense.
Samuel is averaging 200 yards of total offense in the first two games, but he’s done that against Bowling Green and Tulsa. Is the junior from Brooklyn the next Percy Harvin or a flash in the pan against weak competition?
The Buckeyes have talent across the board, but Oklahoma’s defense is talented too. Is Samuel for real? We’ll have a much better idea Saturday.
Can Charles Walker find another gear?
Walker is the linchpin of the Oklahoma defense — a massive 6-foot-2, 305-pound defensive tackle who was an All-Big 12 Second Team member last season despite not starting a game.
He’s starting now, and he’s played well, but given the problems the Sooners have showed on the back end of the defense and Oklahoma’s less-than-impressive pass rush through two games, it falls on Walker to find himself in the backfield early and often against Ohio State.
How “basic" will the Ohio State defense be?
Sooners’ backup quarterback Austin Kendall decided to make a tough job harder for his team earlier this week when he called Ohio State’s defensive scheme “basic” and promised that the Sooners would “light up” the Buckeyes.
He was right about one thing: Ohio State’s defense has been bland so far this season — there’s no reason for the Buckeyes to show anything more than the basic look against the low-level competition they’ve played.
Don’t expect Ohio State to give Oklahoma bland looks Saturday — how the Sooners react to that will go a long way to determining the game.
Will Oklahoma find a go-to wide receiver?
This is the big question for the Sooners — who is going to be the main man to catch the ball? The logical answer is Dede Westbrook, who was the No. 2 behind now-New York Giant Sterling Shepard, but so far the production hasn’t come close to the should-have-been All-American's.
As defenses key in on the Oklahoma run game and blitz quarterback Baker Mayfield into making quick decisions, the need to have a safety valve increases dramatically.
Establishing a go-to receiver early in the contest will indicate if Oklahoma has a chance in this game — if no one emerges, even for a one-game showcase, the Sooners are going to have a hard time beating Ohio State’s young but talented secondary.
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