OVERVIEW: These are the games that make college football the greatest sport in the world to me, and this is a dream matchup. I had a hard time staying awake during Ohio State's game with Bowling Green, but this coming weekend has me pretty jacked up. These are two pretty good teams, featuring two Hall of Fame coaches. Tradition galore. Athletes all over the field. The college playoffs on the line. Put the ball on the tee and let's go.
WHAT IS THE KEY TO THE GAME FOR BOTH TEAMS? I've felt all along that this game would come down to the quarterbacks and the runningbacks, but I'm having second thoughts on that. I still think running the football will be key, to keep pressure off the QB's. These teams will need to be in a position where they are passing when they want to, not when they have to. Staying out of 3rd-and-12 is clutch. I feel strongly that the team that has the most pass attempts will lose, but I think defense is the key to winning for both teams.
WHAT WILL OSU OFFENSIVELY? I really believe Ohio State will lean heavily on Curtis Samuel and he could touch the football 20 times or more. You don't worry about over-using him this week. Samuel can be a difference maker against the Sooners both running and catching the football, and he needs the ball early and often. Secondly, J.T. Barrett needs to play well, REALLY WELL, and there's no reason he won't. I'm not sure Oklahoma presents all that much defensively that Ohio State can't handle. Houston moved the ball on them easily, and they weren't all that good against Louisiana-Monroe who had 350 yards and scored 17 points. Get the zone read moving with Samuel and Barrett, then mix in throws to Noah Brown and Marcus Baugh. Keep the passing attempts under 25.
WHAT WILL OSU DO DEFENSIVELY? Last week's effort against Tulsa was an eye-opener, because that was a pretty good offensive football team. Stopping Mixon and Perrine is Job-One, and you then force Baker Mayfield to beat you throwing the football. Can Robert Landers be the force inside he was last week? I know Raekwon McMillan will play well and he can stop those two horses by himself. I don't think the Sooner wideouts are the second coming of Lynn Swann and John Stallworth, so play them in press man and force them to beat you over the top with Malik Hooker lurking in the shadows. Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis and Jaylin Holmes need to live in Oklahoma's backfield and make life miserable for Mayfield.
THE COACHING MATCHUP: To me, it's not Meyer vs. Stoops, but Greg Schiano vs. Lincoln Riley. Losing Chris Ash was a tough blow for Ohio State, but hiring Schiano was pure genius by Meyer. Is this the week Schiano earns his money? I love Riley and think he's the best young offensive coordinator in the game. If Schiano can slow down the Sooners, and I think he can, then Oklahoma is in trouble. I really believe the Buckeyes are going to score 31-35 points in this game. Can Schiano keep them under 30? Of course, the Meyer vs. Stoops matchup tilts heavily to Urban in a big game setting.
THE OFFENSIVE "WOW" PLAYER: Sticking with Curtis Samuel for the third week in a row, and he shares the honor this week with Barrett. Those two can put a lot of points on the board, and I think they're going to play really well.
THE DEFENSIVE "WOW" PLAYER: It's time for Raekwon McMillan to have a signature game, and what better time than this game? Let the NFL scouts see why you should be a high draft pick by stopping Perrine and Mixon cold.
THE VEGAS LINE: The total of 63 is probably right on the money, and I thought that's what it should be. I have this as a 35-27 type of game, so no over-under action from me. I do think the game line of Ohio State -1 is a line that can be attacked. I would have OSU -7 if I were setting the line, so I see value even with a road favorite. These are games that Urban Meyer wins, and these are games that Bob Stoops loses. Ohio State is a better Houston offensively, which is not good for Oklahoma's defense. Oklahoma plays a style similar to Tulsa offensively, and Schiano obliterated that offense a week ago. I believe Ohio State will win this game and it might not be all that close either. I know I picked Oklahoma to win this game in my preseason forecast, but that was before we had a chance to see both teams in action. No need to spend good money chasing bad money.
THE PREDICTION: OHIO STATE 38 Oklahoma 27.