No more talk already about how a young Lincoln Riley and the Sooners are walking into a hornet’s nest when Oklahoma-Ohio State — No. 5 versus No. 2 — clash Saturday night at The Horseshoe in Columbus.
Oklahoma fans are acutely aware that every living soul outside of the Sooner Nation give them a prayer of a chance to upset the home team in this battle of top-10 college football titans. From where I sit, that puts all the pressure squarely on the team in the scarlet jerseys.
No mistake about it, Ohio State is extremely talented and very well coached. And I get it that they are favored in this game, especially the way the Buckeyes manhandled the Sooners on OU’s home field one year ago.
The Oklahoma players and fans may not have liked the victorious Buckeyes spelling out and shouting the letters O-H-I-O at the 50-yard line on Owen Field, but the Sooners have no one to blame but themselves. They simply didn’t play well enough to beat the Buckeyes.
One thing you can count on going into this marquee college football matchup: The OU attitude will surely be different this time around, and no Sooner player is seeking revenge and payback more on Saturday night than Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield. The fifth-year senior and two-time Heisman finalist acknowledges — almost to a fault — that much of the debacle the Sooners experienced against Ohio State last season was on him, and he is anxious to set the record straight.
We’ve read and heard much this week about how great Mayfield is and how dangerous he becomes on broken plays when he goes into improvisational mode. Also how, if given time, the OU quarterback will pick apart the young Buckeye secondary.
We’ve also have had it thrown into our face about how strong and talented the Ohio State running backs are and how they are likely, with last season’s game serving as a prime reference, to eat up Oklahoma’s perceived weakness up the middle in run defense.
All the talking is now exhausted. It’s time now for the players and not the snarky, mostly partisan pundits, to do the talking through their performance on the field.
Another truth: Urban Meyer is a proven veteran and OU’s Lincoln Riley is 19 year’s his junior in life and 16 in the head coach’s position. So that means that Ohio State will win because Meyer is the more experienced of the two head coaches, right? Maybe, but far from absolutely.
Neither Meyer nor Riley is going to run with the ball, throw the ball, catch the ball or make a tackle in the game on Saturday night. Let me throw something else out that debunks the experience-over-newbie analogy. Bobby Bowden of Florida State was 30 year’s Bob Stoops’ senior and with two national championships and plenty of conference championships to his credit when those two coaches went head to head in the BCS National Championship game in 2001. How did that turn out?
The bottom line on Saturday night is exactly that. It’s going to be all about the line. Make that plural: the lines. Specifically, Oklahoma’s top-rated offensive line against the defensive line of the Buckeyes that Ohio State offensive coordinator Greg Schiano calls the best he has ever coached, in college or in the NFL.
Something is going to give at the point of attack — or what football purists like to call “the trenches.” Whichever side comes out ahead when the grades are given out in the upfront battle will determine which team comes out ahead on the scoreboard.
It’s finally time to play the game.