Key rematch awaits No. 2 Ohio State, No. 5 Oklahoma
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The tendency ahead of the big nonconference matchup Saturday night between No. 2 Ohio State and No. 5 Oklahoma is to look at last year’s outcome to draw conclusions.
A relatively young and inexperienced Ohio State team went into Norman, Okla., and manhandled the Sooners in a 45-24 victory.
So, it stands to reason that with this year’s hyped rematch at Ohio Stadium (7:30 p.m. ET, ABC) the Buckeyes are favored to win.
Neither side is buying into the narrative, though, that just because the Buckeyes rolled last year at Oklahoma they are a shoo-in to win this one in the Horseshoe.
The Sooners haven’t forgotten that game and the feeling of being humbled at home.
And they haven’t lost since then.
Oklahoma carries the nation’s longest winning streak of 11 games into the game between storied programs in one of college football’s biggest venues.
“Everybody who was here for last year’s huge loss definitely remembers that,” Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield said. “And that’s something we talked about during camp. We’ve never been here for a team to sing their fight song on our field. Quite frankly, it’s just embarrassing.”
Mayfield threw two interceptions in that game, including one returned for a touchdown by linebacker Jerome Baker that gave the Buckeyes a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.
“Regardless of who would have won that game last year, I think both teams will be very motivated and excited to play this game,” said 34-year-old Lincoln Riley, in his first year as Oklahoma’s head coach after Bob Stoops stepped down in the summer. “I don’t honestly believe that will be a huge factor in this one. We have to go out and try to play a lot better than last year and play more up to our capabilities. That will be our main focus.”
The Buckeyes scored 35 points in the first half and put the Sooners in too deep of a hole to escape. Ohio State rolled up 443 yards of offense in that game, with 291 of those yards on the ground.
“No one is thinking about last year,” Ohio State wide receiver Parris Campbell said. “It’s all about right now.”
But Campbell, whose six catches in Ohio State’s opening win at Indiana included a 74-yard touchdown, also acknowledges that players know when the stage is bigger. This game is likely to have College Football Playoff implications.
“Our approach to this game is it’s the biggest game of the year,” he said. “It’s a big-time opponent, a top-10 matchup. We have to prepare that way. These guys are probably going to come in here with a chip on their shoulder from last year’s game.”
Oklahoma comes in after pounding UTEP 56-7 in its opener at home last Saturday. Mayfield completed his first 16 passes and finished 19 of 20 for 329 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions in one half. Tight end Mark Andrews caught seven passes for 134 yards and a touchdown, and the Sooners rushed for 196 yards.
But UTEP’s defense is nothing like Ohio State’s. The Buckeyes are loaded on the defensive line and at linebacker with potential first-round NFL draft picks.
The Buckeyes’ area of vulnerability could be the secondary. Indiana threw for 420 yards in Ohio State’s 49-21 victory last Thursday, but most of the yards came in the first 2 1/2 quarters before the secondary began to play better.
“We started slow. I was pleased how we rebounded in the second half,” Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano said. “Thirty-eight plays of no gain or lost yardage. The defensive line played outstanding.”
Ohio State’s offense also started slowly at Indiana but picked up steam behind the running of true freshman J.K. Dobbins, who gained 181 yards in his college debut, and J.T. Barrett’s 304 passing yards and three touchdowns.
Add Mike Weber, last year’s starter, into the mix at running back this week and the offense could be that much more lethal. Weber sat out the opener with a hamstring issue.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer plans to use both backs but hasn’t decided on a rotation. Running the ball against Oklahoma’s defense most likely will be more difficult that at Indiana.
“They’re big, very athletic and they’re talented up front,” Ohio State center Billy Price said. “I think with those guys you have to give them a lot of respect. They’re big dudes. Looking forward to a great matchup with them.”
NOTES: Oklahoma will be without CB Jordan Parker. He suffered a season-ending knee injury on special teams in the opener. … Ohio State is 16-4 in night games at Ohio Stadium and has won 14 of its last 16 night games. … Urban Meyer is 19-7 in his career against top 10 teams, including 8-4 at Ohio State. The Buckeyes have won seven of their last nine against opponents ranked in the top 10. … Oklahoma has beaten five ranked opponents during its 11-game win streak. … Ohio State and Oklahoma and No. 3 are No. 5, respectively, in all-time winning percentage. The Buckeyes are 887-322-53 (.724) and the Sooners are 873-321-53 (.721).
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