NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Ohio State and Oklahoma, the top two teams in the AP's all-time rankings, will meet Saturday with the high stakes one might expect in such a matchup.
Ohio State (2-0), which topped the all-time chart, is ranked No. 3 nationally this season. A strong non-conference win would strengthen the Buckeyes' case for a spot in the College Football Playoff, should they be in position to be considered at season's end.
Oklahoma (1-1), No. 2 in the all-time rankings, is No. 14 this season after losing its season opener to Houston. The Sooners need a boost to get back near the top of this season's poll and earn a chance to possibly return to the Playoff. A loss would likely knock the Sooners out of contention.
“You talk about the playoff picture,” Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield said. “This is a big game for later on down the road. We're not focusing on that, but it does have the potential to affect later on in the season.”
Then there's the Heisman race. Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett, the fifth-place finisher in 2014, matches up against Mayfield, the fourth-place finisher in 2015. Both are in position to vault into the forefront of the conversation.
That's not all. Two of the best coaches in the business, Ohio State's Urban Meyer and Oklahoma's Bob Stoops, will match wits.
Then there's pride. The programs have met twice. Oklahoma won 29-28 in Columbus, Ohio, in 1977. Ohio State won 24-14 in Norman, Oklahoma, in 1983.
“When you play these games and win them, it's a boost,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. “They're exciting for everybody. They're challenging and they're great competition that you're going against. They can give you a lift when you win.”
Meyer said he's glad this isn't the opener for his young team, yet knows going to Norman is a true test.
“I'm glad we have two under our belt for the new guys to play a little bit,” he said. “We've got a lot of respect for their personnel. We're facing a very good team.”
Here are some things to look for in the game on Saturday:
CURTIS SAMUEL: Samuel, Ohio State's H-back, had nine catches for 177 yards against Bowling Green and ran 13 times for 84 yards. Against Tulsa, he caught five passes for 62 yards and ran eight times for 78 yards.
“Each week, they progress him more as a running back,” Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “There were perimeter plays with him before, now they're starting to run him up inside. You just have to be conscious of where he's at and what you want to do with him.”
JOE MIXON: Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine is closing in on all kinds of school records, but Mixon is having the better season. The sophomore has 320 all-purpose yards in two games. He ran for 117 yards last week against Louisiana-Monroe. He's a threat as a receiver, runner and as a return man.
OHIO STATE D: The Buckeyes have allowed just two field goals this season. The only touchdown scored on the Buckeyes came on an interception return.
“They're just physical,” Mayfield said. “They're all around good players. Yeah, they lost a lot of people from last year, but that doesn't matter. They do a good job recruiting and filling in the spots.”
BALL HAWKS: Ohio State already has three interception returns for touchdowns by three different players. Mayfield occasionally struggles with forcing throws, so he'll need to be careful against such an aggressive unit.
BIG ANDREWS: Oklahoma's 6-foot-5, 250-pound tight end Mark Andrews has five catches and three touchdowns this season. For his career, he has 24 receptions and 10 touchdowns. He's a matchup problem who could create openings for his teammates.