By Michael Kinney
NORMAN, Ok. — The University of Oklahoma and the Ohio State Buckeyes. They are two of the most storied college football programs in the nation.
The two football factories have combined for 12 national titles, 80 conference titles and 1,739 victories. It would be hard pressed for any two teams to take the field with a stronger resume than the Sooners and Buckeyes.
Yet, none of that will matter when the ball is kicked-off at 6:30 p.m. tonight at Memorial Stadium. The past will not make a difference to the hundred or so young men on the field. For them, it’s all about carving out their own bit of college football history.
Both teams see this game as a must win, but that is especially true for a Sooners’ squad that has already felt sting of defeat this season.
Oklahoma loss to then No. 15 Houston in the season opener. It’s what prevented this contest from being a top-5 matchup. The loss also spread some doubt on just how high this team can reach this season.
But all of that can be forgotten with a win over No. 5 Ohio State.
“This week is going to be amped up,” Mark Andres said. “I know everyone around here is excited about it. I know we’re excited about it. Everything is just going to be one step bigger. It’s a big game. Everybody knows that.”
Coming off a throttling of ULM last week in the home opener, the Sooners regained a small piece of their swagger back. But they know the Buckeyes are an entirely different beast to contend with.
With coach Urban Meyers at the helm, OSU won a national title two years ago and was in contention to make the College Football Playoffs last season.
But even after seeing boat load of players head to the NFL, many analyst believe this could be the most talented Buckeyes squad since Meyers arrived.
One of those players is quarterback J.T. Barrett, who is now back in charge of the offense full time after a revolving door at the position since his injury two seasons ago. His ability to run with the rock and direct the offense will once again put the OU defense under the microscope as they face a mobile signal caller.
It won’t just be Barrett the Sooners have to deal with. Mike Weber, Curtis Samuel and Dontre Wilson all have the ability to make plays in an offense that is quite similar to the Houston Cougars.
“(Playing Houston will help us,” Obo Okoronkwo said. “We will be more familiar with that type of offense. That always helps. Just because you have seen it before, you can react faster. You know what’s coming.”
For Oklahoma, the offense game plan will once again come down to identity is going to come to the party. Is it the one where Baker Mayfield is slinging the ball around the field looking for big plays in the passing game. Or the one where Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon get behind their huge offensive line and dictate terms to the Buckeyes.
In past big games, the Sooner have tried to put the game on Mayfield’s shoulders. But on a night like this, Oklahoma’s best weapon is its running game.
There may be no more important person for Oklahoma that offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley. Since joining the Sooners last season, he has change the style of the unit. However, he has, in the past, seemingly forgotten about the run game and the horses he has in the backfield. If that happens tonight, the Buckeyes talented defense can just pin their ears back and go hunting for Mayfield. .
“That’s their strength on defense, they are good everywhere,” Riley said of OSU. “They will be a challenge up front, challenge for our wideouts, for Bake, for everybody. It’s a great challenge and hopefully we’ll play well and be a tough challenge for them to.”
On a weekend that is full of high quality games, Oklahoma and Ohio State stands out. It’s one the players, coaches and fans can all get behind.
The Buckeyes are expected to have a large contingent of OSU fans in the stadium. So there will be intensity on and off the field. That seems to be the way the Sooners want it.
“I don’t think there is any way you can prepare for this type of game,” Andrews said. “It’s going to be crazy.”
Story ran in the Yukon Review