This is the game I have been waiting for since the 2015 season ended. This is the game that will set the measuring stick for the rest of the season, and I still am not confident in picking a winner. Ohio State has looked a lot better than I thought it would two games into the season, specifically the Buckeye secondary, and Oklahoma’s loss to Houston showed that this Sooner team might not be the same team that rolled into the College Football Playoff a season ago.
That said, here are my game predictions:
After watching the Houston game, I think Ohio State can and has to have great success in the passing game offensively to pull off the win. I am expecting Noah Brown to have a big day, at least five receptions, after watching Steven Dunbar of Houston have an equally big day. Dunbar and Brown are about the same size, and with his wide frame and athletic ability, I expect Brown to give the Oklahoma corners problems. Ohio State’s biggest struggle will come up front, trying to move the Sooners’ large and athletic front seven. With a young offensive line, that could be a struggle for OSU.
Defensively, the Buckeyes will have to create turnovers against Heisman candidate Baker Mayfield. The OSU secondary has been great so far but will truly be tested against an elite signal caller. Ohio State will once again be challenged in the trenches as the Buckeye defensive tackles have struggled at times to get penetration into the opponent’s backfield.
If you cannot win the battle in the trenches, it gets hard to win, and I am sticking by my preseason prediction of a Sooner win. SCORE: Oklahoma 35, Ohio State 34
Finally, the game we’ve been waiting for, in the first half of the season at least. I see this being a close game that comes down to a handful of crucial plays and some pivotal coaching decisions. A coaching decision such as clock management at the end of one of the halves could be critical in this matchup.
That said, I am going to have to go with Ohio State as the winner. Head coach Urban Meyer has a lot to do with that decision. He understands the importance of preparation in games of this magnitude. His players understand that as well. Furthermore, just his record since arriving at Ohio State in regular-season true road games is astonishing, a perfect 18-0. Those 18 wins include a couple at both Michigan and Michigan State to boot.
This group of Ohio State players is very team-oriented as well. Their answers to media members’ questions seem to always come back to doing whatever is best for the team or whatever they can personally do to help the team win. Going into a hostile environment like what Norman, Okla., will be Saturday night, you need that togetherness and brotherhood to be successful. And this team seems to have it.
The one element that may prevent the Buckeyes from winning is the weather. Rainy, sloppy weather can lead to turnovers, and giveaways can be the ultimate equalizer in a prime-time game like this. But I think they’ll find a way to get it done. SCORE: Ohio State 34, Oklahoma 31
Before the season began, I predicted that Ohio State would lose to Oklahoma, and I expected that to be the Buckeyes’ only loss of the regular season. I’m not here to say I was wrong. But I am here to say I was very possibly wrong, but I’m only somewhat confident that Ohio State will win this game.
In week 1, the Buckeyes really did shock me with a 77-10 win over Bowling Green. But by halftime against Tulsa, I thought picking Oklahoma would be a safer bet. But then Ohio State came out after the weather delay firing on all cylinders and ended up winning 48-3. With just over on hour off the field, Ohio State flipped a switch, so what can the Buckeyes do this Saturday with a full week to prepare for the Sooners?
I think Ohio State is better than expected, and Oklahoma already has a loss under its belt. I do think the Sooners are still a very good team, but the Buckeyes might have the edge, and they’ll have all the confidence in the world.
If Ohio State can establish a running threat – be it between the tackles or to the outside with Curtis Samuel and Dontre Wilson – then the Buckeyes will put up plenty of points. This one will come down to who makes the mistake at the wrong time, and I really expect Malik Hooker to come up with another key interception.
If everything falls into place, the Buckeyes are probably the better team, but this one will be close. I’ll even go so far as calling a game-winning field goal from Tyler Durbin in Norman. SCORE: Ohio State 38, Oklahoma 35
It’s great to have a game like this on the schedule again, isn’t it? After sitting through series with Miami (Fla.), Cal and Virginia Tech – all of whom were in different stages of down cycles, even though two of them beat Ohio State – this is a bona fide marquee nonconference game for the Buckeyes.
It’s interesting to me how the narrative for this one has changed since the season began. Before the season, Oklahoma was ranked third in the BSB consensus poll while OSU was fifth, making this the only regular-season nonconference meeting between two preseason top-five teams in the poll.
Now, the Sooners’ loss to Houston has dulled the anticipation for this one a bit, and many observers have a higher opinion of the Buckeyes after two season-opening wins by a combined 112 points.
On the other hand, that should make this game more important in one sense – one team, Oklahoma, is now playing for its playoff life. If the Sooners lose this one, there’s no way they’re coming back into the postseason race, especially with how weak the Big 12 looks this year.
Add in the home crowd in Norman and the fact that it took a fluke kick-six, the longest in college football history, for Houston to take down the Sooners and I think they’re being underrated slightly going into this one. This Ohio State team remains very talented and very good, but very young and on the road is a bad combination. I think Oklahoma’s offense does enough to win this one. SCORE: Oklahoma 34, Ohio State 28
Finally, the game that Ohio State fans have been waiting for all offseason is here. It was a foregone conclusion that the Buckeyes would be 2-0 after a pair of nonconference games against Bowling Green and Tulsa, but Ohio State’s victories by a combined score of 125-13 offer some insight on what to expect this weekend in Norman.
The Ohio State defense has been superb so far this season as the Silver Bullets have not allowed a touchdown. While I don’t expect that to continue, I do expect strong play from the Buckeye defense. I think Sooner quarterback Baker Mayfield guides the home team to the end zone on multiple occasions, but I also think he throws his first interception of the season. I’ll say Gareon Conley hauls it in.
On the other side of the ball I expect Urban Meyer to, in part, mirror the game plan that his protégé Tom Herman used to lead Houston to a week 1 win over Oklahoma. That means a balanced attack (Houston had an even split in rushing and passing plays) that utilizes an up tempo approach. Expect the Buckeyes to try to go fast and to have some success doing it.
If Ohio State holds Oklahoma under 30 points, it wins the game. At the beginning of the season I thought the Buckeyes would drop this game on the road – and there is still a solid chance that the road environment is too tough for an inexperienced Ohio State roster – but the Buckeyes have looked better than I expected through two games and the Sooners have been worse. Oklahoma will be desperate, but I don’t think it will be enough. SCORE: Ohio State 35, Oklahoma 28null