COLUMBUS, Ohio — With No. 5 Oklahoma coming to Columbus, second-ranked Ohio State will face a huge test in the second week of the season.
The Buckeyes rolled to a 45-24 win last season against the Sooners, but some early struggles against Indiana last week left Urban Meyer convinced that his team has work to do.
“We’ve got to get better in certain areas, there’s no doubt about it,” he said.
Here are three keys for the Ohio State-Oklahoma game, followed by predictions from our three Land of 10 Ohio State writers.
In the trenches
The Ohio State defensive line is believed by analysts to be the best in the country, but the Buckeyes will have their hands full Saturday. Oklahoma’s offensive line is similarly well-regarded in terms of its unit ranking. The Sooners are led by Orlando Brown, a 6-foot-8, 345-pound left tackle who looks like a future first-round draft pick. Whether the Buckeyes can get to Baker Mayfield and force mistakes by him could determine the outcome of this game, especially with Ohio State’s young secondary.
With J.T. Barrett behind center for the Buckeyes and Mayfield back at quarterback for the Sooners, this game certainly doesn’t lack for star power. Both players have finished in the top five of Heisman Trophy voting. Barrett is coming off a game in which he didn’t connect on a deep ball, but still looked accurate and threw for more than 300 yards. Mayfield also looked impressive in a rout of UTEP and didn’t play in the second half. Either quarterback outplaying the other could help tip the balance to their team.
The Buckeyes escaped a slow start in Bloomington, Ind., in the opener in part because they dominated the turnover margin. Indiana committed 3 turnovers and the Buckeyes had zero. In 2016, Ohio State rode a plus-2 turnover margin to a road victory over the Sooners. One of those was a touchdown for the Buckeyes, who went up 14-0 on an interception that was returned 68 yards for a touchdown by Jerome Baker. When elite teams meet, the one that makes the fewest and least-damaging mistakes often is the one that prevails.
Ohio State vs. Oklahoma picks, score predictions
The Buckeyes are a touchdown favorite over the Sooners, but all three Land of 10 writers see the home team covering that spread. Ohio State has a talent advantage and a coach with three championships compared to one coaching his second game. The season opener against Indiana exposed some issues, but the Buckeyes have had nine days to work on them and also return starting running back Mike Weber.
Jeremy Birmingham: Ohio State 45, Oklahoma 28
Ryan Ginn: Ohio State 35, Oklahoma 24
Austin Ward: Ohio State 45, Oklahoma 24