Oklahoma at Ohio State

Sports Xchange

September 06, 2017 at 5:37 pm.

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET
SITE: Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
TV: ABC
SERIES: Ohio State leads 2-1, winning last season 45-24 in Norman, Okla.
RANKINGS: Ohio State No. 2, Oklahoma No. 5

PLAYERS TO WATCH
Sooners

–WR Marquise Brown might be the fastest player on Oklahoma’s roster and his ability to get behind defenses could be important against a team like the Buckeyes.

–LB/DE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo had the Sooners’ only sack a week ago and led the Sooners with four tackles. He’s key to not only slowing down the running game but also to pressuring the quarterback.

–LB Caleb Kelly, a sophomore, figures to play a bigger role in this game due to his ability to move from the inside to the outside depending on what Ohio State is doing offensively.

–TE Grant Calcaterra, a true freshman, showed that he could be a viable second option at tight end to complement Mark Andrews, coming up with a strong performance in the opener.

–DBs Tre Brown and Tre Norwood, both freshmen, are expected to see bigger roles on defense and special teams as the Sooners try to develop depth in the secondary with CB Jordan Parker suffering a season-ending knee injury in the opener.

Buckeyes

–QB J.T. Barrett began the season with a solid performance in the win at Indiana. The senior completed 20 of 35 passes for 304 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 61 yards on 13 carries. He accounted for 365 total yards in the game, bringing his career total to 9,211 yards, a school record. Last year in Ohio State’s win at Oklahoma, Barrett threw four touchdown passes and passed for 152 yards and ran for 74 as the Buckeyes dominated the Sooners.

–RB J.K. Dobbins became just the sixth true freshman to start the first game of the season for Ohio State. With returning starter Mike Weber sidelined because of a hamstring issue, Dobbins made a head-turning debut with 181 rushing yards on 29 carries, a record rushing total for an Ohio State back in his debut. Even when Weber returns at 100 percent this week, expect to see plenty of Dobbins throughout the season.

–DE Tyquan Lewis opened the season with two sacks at Indiana. The fifth-year senior moved into the top 10 in school history in sacks with 18.5 for his career. The 2016 Big Ten defensive lineman of the year played in his 42nd career game and started for the 27th time.

–WR Parris Campbell had career highs in receptions (six) and yards (136) in Ohio State’s win at Indiana to open the season. His 74-yard touchdown catch and run in the third quarter put Ohio State ahead for good. Campbell also returned two kickoffs for a 25-yard average.

KEYS
TO THE GAME

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.

Abdul Adams started at running back for the Sooners and had the best performance, with 87 yards of total offense. But how Oklahoma will divide carries in closer games remains to be seen. Either way, though, the Sooners have one of the best offensive lines in college football. They get their toughest challenge of the season in this one, though, as the Buckeyes’ defensive line is one of the best around, loaded up front 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.”