With a potential season-defining game for both the Ohio State and Oklahoma football teams, all eyes will fall on Norman, Oklahoma, on Saturday evening. OSU finds themselves ranked at No. 3, while the Sooners are ranked at No. 14.
Both teams were named by the AP as the No. 1 and No. 2 football programs of all time.
To start the year, Oklahoma dropped its opening contest to now-No. 6 Houston Cougars and former OSU offensive coordinator Tom Herman. With one loss sustained to start the year, Bob Stoops and company will need to pick up a win against the Buckeyes to keep the College Football Playoff dream alive in Norman.
Across the field, OSU coach Urban Meyer has led his team to a perfect start in 2016, picking up blowout victories over Bowling Green and Tulsa. Firmly within the top five in the AP Top 25 Poll, the Buckeyes need a victory over Oklahoma to solidify their place as a top talent in the country.
Meyer was blunt with his description on what kind of challenge the Sooners present. In fact, he used one word to describe Saturday’s contest.
“Difficult,” Meyer said.
Redshirt junior Baker Mayfield requires little introduction as the leader of Oklahoma. A dynamic signal-caller with the ability to baffle defenses with his legs and burn them deep with his arm, Mayfield is an early season candidate for the Heisman trophy.
Mayfield leads the Big 12 in passing efficiency, while also averaging 283.5 yards per game so far this year. Last season the Austin, Texas, native finished fourth in the nation in the voting for the best college football player in the nation.
So far, Mayfield has completed 38 of 53 passes for 567 yards and five touchdowns, three of which to towering 6-foot-5 sophomore wideout Mark Andrews.
The sheer size of Andrews creates mismatches for cornerbacks, and should pose an interesting matchup for redshirt junior Gareon Conley.
The backfield for Oklahoma contains one of the most potent committee attacks in the nation, with junior running back Samaje Perine and redshirt sophomore Joe Mixon. Perine and Mixon have collectively racked up 246 yards and three scores in the first two weeks, and will put the linebackers of OSU to work trying to slow the ground game of the Sooners.
The Sooners have given up 380 yards per game, which is tied for 60th in the nation. After giving up big chunks of yardage to Houston, Oklahoma struggled to slow the University of Louisiana-Monroe in terms of yardage.
Although the Week 1 loss saw Oklahoma give up 33 points, there was a bit of a rebound for the team against the Warhawks, surrendering 17 points.
Led by senior linebacker Jordan Evans, who has picked up 18 tackles so far this year, the Sooners have held opposing running backs to just 83.5 yards per game in 2016. The front seven will create an interesting challenge for redshirt freshman running back Mike Weber.
As for the secondary, Oklahoma has struggled at times against opposing quarterbacks, surrendering nearly 300 yards through the air. The leader of the secondary from last season, Zach Sanchez, departed for the NFL’s Carolina Panthers.
Without last year’s stud in the secondary, the Sooners defensive backs may struggle to slow the high-powered Buckeye offense. Senior cornerback Dakota Austin has been with the program for four years now, but has only played in 10 career games.
While the game between the two football powerhouses features opponents looking to make statements early in the season, the differences in how the teams have performed to this point have been numerous.
Although OSU has racked up plenty of yardage so far on offense statistically speaking, it has been the defense that has stolen the show for the Scarlet and Gray. Oklahoma, on the other hand, has allowed a considerable amount of yards to opponents this year, using its offense to capture victory.
The matchup between a powerful defense and a highly potent offense might lead to plenty of fireworks in Norman this Saturday.