Game day. A little over 5 hours until Oklahoma and Ohio State kick off in Columbus. The Sooners are looking for redemption after being run off Owen Field last year by the Buckeyes. The game will be televised on ABC with kickoff slated for 6:30 pm CST. Ohio State is a 7.5 point favorite but Oklahoma has some reasons to be optimistic tonight — and it starts with Baker Mayfield.
The senior quarterback has not shied away from the spotlight at all this week going as far as saying this game will be a preview to this year’s national championship. He’ll need more than confidence if he wants to lead his team to a victory in ‘The Shoe’.
Given the magnitude of this game, I’m going to throw out more than one five points — but I’ll try to be as brief as possible. Here we go:
- Let’s start with the most obvious one: Oklahoma CANNOT afford to come out sluggish. This isn’t Butch Jones’ Tennessee, it’s Urban Myers Ohio State. A much more talented group across the board in arguably a more hostile environment. The Sooners don’t need a hot start, they just can’t fall behind by more than a touchdown early.
- Establish a run game. I don’t think you have to get the run game going right away, especially with Ohio State’s defensive front-seven. Although I think Oklahoma does need to get something going before the half. Look for the Sooners to use the passing game to open up opportunities for the running backs.
- Jeffery Mead. If you follow me on twitter or have listened to the podcasts, I haven’t bought into the Jeffery Mead hype whatsoever. This week, I’m changing my stance. I like the mismatch that Jeffery Mead presents on the outside against this Ohio State secondary. Not the fastest guy on the field, he’s likely not going to burn Ohio State deep, but the Buckeyes struggled with the size of Indiana’s wide receivers.
- To piggy back off the point before, the Oklahoma wide receivers have the advantage over a young, inexperienced Ohio State secondary — but they HAVE to play with that mindset. Jeff Badet is another name to watch on the outside. He is going to have one-on-one situations with the safety helping with Mark Andrews, expect Mayfield to look his way early and often.
- Tempo. Ohio State’s defensive line is talented and deep. On obvious passing downs, they’ll take substitute their big defensive tackles and use four defensive ends. If Oklahoma goes to a tempo offense, it will not give Ohio State many opportunities to substitute. Do not be surprised if Riley goes tempo to get one of these groups stuck on the field, at least for three to four downs.
- Bring the pressure. Last week the Sooners, while holding UTEP to just 7 points, were fairly unimpressive on defense — recording just 4 tackles for loss. If you’ve ever seen ‘Wolf of Wall Street’, you know what I’m saying those are rookie numbers in this racket. For Oklahoma to keep Ohio State’s offense at bay, they’ll need to make plays in the backfield.
- Play physical. Outside of a couple big hits, Oklahoma again did not impress physically. Will Johnson, Emmanuel Beal, even Jordan Thomas had chances to make big hits but opted for diving head down at ankles and allowing the ball carrier more yards. You can get away with that against a team like UTEP, not so much against Ohio State. The Sooners need their vets to set the tone physically, not shy away from it.
- Caleb Kelly. Last week Lincoln Riley took him off the field when Oklahoma went to nickel — gut feeling says that was to throw off Ohio State. He is by far the most talented player on the defensive side of the ball. Compared to Beal, he brings more size, speed, and coverage ability to the field. The Sooners will need that in Columbus give Ohio State’s size and JT Barrett’s ability to make plays with his legs. You brought the 5-star prospect in the be the star of your defense, let him be the star.