As No. 14 Oklahoma scored again and again Saturday, cruising to a 59-17 over Louisiana-Monroe, the cheers of the record-setting crowd at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium began to wane.
Many of the 87,037 people in attendance began to exit the newly-renovated stadium early as the Sooners (1-1) jumped all over the Warhawks (1-1). They were pleased to be sure, but they wanted something a little more exciting.
They’ll get that this week.
The Ohio State Buckeyes are coming to town Sept. 17, bringing together two of college football’s most iconic programs for only the third time in history. Since 2000, the two programs have combined for eight appearances in the national title game with three championships.
Most recently, Ohio State won the 2014 national title, but almost every major contributor from that team is gone, leaving an inexperienced but talented squad. This year’s team has just three seniors listed as starters but has already vaulted into the top five of the polls.
“I don’t care if they’re freshman, sophomores, (and) juniors. Ohio State has tremendous players and they execute very well,” Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “They’re well coached. So we’re going to have to match it with a great performance defensively.”
The baby Buckeyes have rolled through their first two weeks, knocking off Bowling Green and Tulsa by a combined score of 125-13.
Those teams, like the Warhawks, never stood a chance. The Sooners should be different, and the young Buckeyes will finally get a chance to prove themselves on a national stage Saturday.
“The challenge of challenges is coming next week,” said Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, whose Florida Gators beat Oklahoma in the 2009 BCS Championship game.
It will also be a showdown between two of the country’s top quarterbacks. J.T. Barrett, who started most of the national championship season for the Buckeyes, has 498 yards passing and nine total touchdowns in the first two weeks of the season.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield has picked up where he left off last season, when he finished fourth in the race for the Heisman trophy. The junior has thrown for 567 yards and five touchdowns in the first two games.
A big day from Mayfield can help Oklahoma claw its way back into the playoff picture after the Sooners’ national standing took a hit following a week one loss to the Houston Cougars. But the player whose late game heroics and Houdini-like ability to escape pass rushers helped Oklahoma win the Big 12 last season said he doesn’t have any tricks planned for Ohio State.
“Just gonna come out and try to do the same thing I did tonight,” Mayfield said after the Louisiana-Monroe game. “Just go out and execute and get the ball in my players’ hands and let them go to work.”
In fact, he said Saturday night he hadn’t looked at any film of the Buckeye defense yet.
“Zero,” Mayfield said. “Taking it one game at a time, and I’ll start tomorrow.”
But no matter how Mayfield and the rest of the team approach it, the Ohio State game is one that means more. With a night kickoff on national television, two of college football’s giants will draw the eyes of millions of Americans to central Oklahoma.
“It’s a huge one,” junior cornerback Jordan Thomas said. “It’ll be a huge game for us as a university and a program, and just for us and our pride.”
“Obviously we lost to Houston, and our aspirations as a team is playing big time football and winning those big games,” Thomas continued. “And that’s definitely going to be a big one.”