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Ohio State Buckeyes at Oklahoma Sooners: Preview, Predictions & Prognostications

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When: Sat. Sept. 17, 2016; 7:30 pm ET
Where: Norman, OK; Oklahoma Memorial Stadium (84,000)
TV: Fox
All-Time Series: Tied 1-1
Last Meeting: Ohio State won 24-14 (in 1983)
Line: Ohio State -2

Ohio State has scheduled some great home-and-home series over the past decade, but this one has the most hype since the Texas series a decade ago. The Sooners and the Buckeyes have been two of the most consistent forces in college football in the BCS and Playoff era, and both programs lead the pack in AP Poll #1 rankings all-time. Indeed, when these programs last played a series, coaches like Woody Hayes and Barry Switzer roamed the sidelines.

All the history aside, this game has already changed in perception thanks to OSU’s fast start to the season and Oklahoma’s stumble out of the gates against Houston opening weekend. All of a sudden, the Buckeyes are a road favorite in this game rather than this being an underdog. Oklahoma may need this game just to stay alive in the race for the College Football Playoff.

Both teams have the talent and aspirations for another playoff run, but only one will walk out of Norman with one of the best wins (on paper) for the 2016 season.

1 Burning Question: How will both teams handle adversity?

This question is inherently more directed towards the Buckeyes, who strolled through two fairly easy victories (even though the first half against Tulsa was not great). The young Buckeyes have not really faced a tough situation to prove they can respond, let alone in a hostile road environment. There’s a lot to be said for youth and exuberance, but J.T. Barrett and Raekwon McMillan aside, this set of OSU players has not proven the toughness and clutch instincts that championship teams need to show in the biggest moments and games. Those leaders will be critical when adversity strikes in this game, which is most certainly will with an opponent of this caliber.

However, the question also applies to Oklahoma, which was not able to overcome adversity and respond with a big play when Houston took a touchdown lead thanks to the field goal return play two weeks ago. For a team which set the Big 12 on fire with 530 yards per game and 43.5 points per game in 2015, being held under 400 yards and 25 points by the Cougars was not a good response to a first taste of adversity. Nevertheless, that was an opening week game and one would figure the Sooners will be much better when adversity strikes in this game and future games.

Hopefully both teams handle the bad moments well and we end up with a close game, decided by the best efforts of the Heisman candidate quarterbacks and by innovative play calls from these two stacked coaching staffs.

2 Key Stats:

— 100+. That’s the amount of yards Oklahoma has rushed for in every victory of 2015-16 (12 wins), while being 0-3 when not reaching this mark. With Lincoln Riley’s spread attack from his days at Texas Tech led by an experience quarterback in Baker Mayfield, the Sooners have consistently achieved 200-500 yards in the passing game each week since the beginning of last season. But the stat which proves most telling in the Sooner losses is rushing (only 67 yards against Texas and Clemson last year, only 70 against Houston this season), as Oklahoma does not win unless they go for 100 or more yards. Thus, a clear key to stopping Oklahoma is making them one-dimensional enough to be predictable. OSU has held its first two opponents under 100 rushing, but can the feat be achieved against the likes of Samaje Perine, Mayfield, and Joe Mixon?

— 7. That’s the number of interceptions the Buckeyes already have in 2016 (as well as the total for Baker Mayfield since the beginning of 2015). One key to making sure a pass-happy offense works is avoiding mistakes like interceptions, especially ones that turn into points. The Buckeyes have generated 7 interceptions and returned 3 for touchdowns already this season, blowing open a close Tulsa first half thanks to these big plays. With Mayfield having not made any mistakes of this sort yet this year, expect this to be a key indicator of whether Oklahoma can maintain control and produce big results against this talented and apparently ball-hawking OSU secondary.

3 Key Players:

Mike Weber, Ohio State RB: Although the carries have been spread out to include significant contributions from hybrid back Curtis Samuel as well as quarterback J.T. Barrett, Weber is the new workhorse of this team. His ability to plow through and push back defenders has been clear in the first two weeks, as he is cut from a similar mold as prior backs Carlos Hyde and Ezekiel Elliott. In order to keep Oklahoma from wearing out the Buckeye defense, Weber will need to have another effective day against the Sooners. Anything less than 100 yards and 20+ carries will probably be unacceptable if the Buckeyes want to escape with the road win.

Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma QB: It may be obvious, but Mayfield is the best weapon and leader Oklahoma will bring to the field on Saturday night, and he will have to play well to earn a victory. Mayfield can burn defenses with his legs at times, but OSU’s defense should be accustomed to this type of threat, going against J.T. Barrett in practice each week. More importantly, he may be the first quarterback who can effectively see what flaws and breaks are present in the coverage of a young Buckeye defense, and if he exploits those weaknesses for big plays, that could be the deciding factor. If Mayfield wants a chance at a Heisman or another playoff run, he needs to go out there and win this game.

Malik Hooker, Ohio State S: Much was made of how Ohio State’s inexperience in the secondary could be an Achilles heel in 2016. However, Hooker has provided tons of big plays roaming about the field as a safety, including 3 interceptions and 4 other pass break-ups.

Along with fellow sophomore Marshon Lattimore, Hooker has made the air a dangerous place to play for Buckeye opponents. If he can continue to show the ability to sniff out plays against a savvy quarterback and offensive coordinator, the potential is there for Hooker to make a game-saving or game-winning play on defense. The Sooners would best beware making things too obvious for talents like this one.

4 Bold Prognostications:

— Mayfield and Barrett each throw at least one interception. Although the discussion above of Ohio State’s secondary and interceptions has been in depth, one should not overlook the Oklahoma secondary, which is the best in the Big 12. Led by CB Jordan Thomas and S Ahmad Thomas, the Sooners will have enough experience to force J.T. Barrett into making better decisions than he’s made on a few occasions in the first two weeks of 2016. This is strength on strength for both sides of the ball, and I believe both defenses will make at least one big play against the opposing star quarterback on Saturday night.

— Both offensive coordinators bust out a couple ridiculous trick plays. One one side, you have Lincoln Riley and his spread passing offense. On the other, you have Urban Meyer counseling his two coordinators Tim Beck and Ed Warinner. Ironically, you also have Warinner’s football player son on a recruiting visit to Oklahoma this weekend, but that’s another story. The stage does not get much bigger for both teams, so expect the coaching staffs to have a couple special looks in place to bust out and try to sneak a big play through, while also generating tape for conference rials to fret over as well in the coming weeks.

— Both offenses generate over 450 yards of offense. Despite both defenses being strong enough to slow down most teams on the schedule, this early-season game likely favors the more potent offenses to come out on top. Expect both teams to move the ball effectively at times throughout the game, which means that red zone opportunities and effectiveness could very well decide this match up. With so many weapons and play makers on both teams, it is nearly impossible to guess which player will make the scores to decide the game, and that also makes it unlikely either defense will have an A+ day in this game. 

— The battle of the bands will be almost as good as the battle on the football field. Oklahoma has one of the loudest (and some would argue most obnoxious) bands in college football, blaring out that fight song at every opportunity. Ohio State will be bringing their famed “TBDBITL” to Norman as well, and the Buckeye band can hold its own in the fight song and Hang On Sloopy department. Those who attend the game will be treated to quite the shows from both bands, both at halftime and also when they compete for decibel levels during the game. Expect both to motivate these football teams to play up to the competition and keep the game close deep into the fourth quarter, where the game will be decided (likely by something silly like a special teams play or a Hail Mary pass)

talking10 Staff Predictions Standings

NameAgainst the SpreadStraight-Up Picks
Andy13-721-6
Dave9-1124-3
Phil Harrison8-1224-3
Philip R-R13-724-3
Zach13-724-3

5 Staff Predictions:

Andy: Oklahoma 37-31
Dave: Oklahoma 41-38
Phil H.: Oklahoma 27-24
Philip R.: Ohio State 35-24
Zach: Ohio State 34-24

Dave is a FWAA member and a Columnist focusing on Big Ten football for talking10. Before joining talking in 2014, he was a Featured Columnist for three years at Bleacher Report and previously wrote for seven years on SouthernCollegeSports.com. He was born in Hawkeye Country and went to college in Columbus, so there's plenty of B1G running through his blood. Dave is a patent and trademark attorney in his day job. If you have any questions in those areas or about his latest articles, please contact him on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy.

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Talking10 Podcast Episode 100: Something, something Urban Meyer

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Ohio State made its decision on Urban Meyer. Andy and Phil are here to break it all down for you and give you the truth in a hazy situation. What better way to celebrate episode 100 of the podcast than to spend 50 minutes breaking down a mess of a situation in Columbus, right?

We’ll talk our reactions to the press conference, break down the actual findings of OSU’s investigative report and we’ll even talk how the media-at-large and the OSU media handled the fallout from Wednesday night’s press conference.

Don’t forget you can listen to the podcast each week via Radio Public and other podcasting apps. 

Also, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram and Twitter @talkingB1G

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Buckeyes Football

Urban Meyer and OSU AD put on suspension following investigation

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The media stakeout of the Ohio State Board of Trustee’s meeting can now end. It only took 12 hours or so, but answers finally came. 

According to multiple reports, including from the AP, OSU head coach Urban Meyer is suspended for the first three games of the season. In addition, athletic director Gene Smith will serve the same suspension from Aug. 31 to Sept. 16 — both will not receive pay during that time frame as well. 

Both came under fire as this story unfolded. It began just prior to the Big Ten media days in late July, the story that Zach Smith had been arrested for criminal trespassing in April of this year broke and Meyer fired Smith on Monday morning of the start of Big Ten media days.

Brett McMurphy then detailed in an exclusive report that Smith had previously been “arrested” back in 2015 for a second allegation of domestic abuse against his then-wife Courtney Smith. 

Meyer was questioned about that arrest and allegation from 2015 at media days and struck out against reporters repeated questioning. He would deny knowing of the arrest report back in 2015. 

However, further reporting by McMurphy put that denial in to further question and Ohio State decided to get to the bottom of it. 

Once Meyer was put on paid administrative leave, he would put a statement out admitting to knowing about the 2015 incident and alerting athletic administrators of the domestic abuse allegations. 

Meyer has stayed silent since that statement and awaited the outcome of the 14-day inquiry in to whom knew what and when and what action was taken. 

That investigation ended this past Sunday, with the committee verbally advising the Board of Trustees on Monday morning of its findings. Two days later, the Board of Trustees would come to meet publicly and then behind closed doors to discuss what would happen to Meyer and others involved in this situation. 

Meyer’s suspension is for the first three games, and on the field that is a big hit with three FBS games coming at the start of the season. OSU kicks off the year against Oregon State, plays a Big Ten contest against Rutgers and a massive game against TCU at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. 

We will have more on this situation and the reaction to what Meyer and Smith had to say on the talking10 Podcast tomorrow. 

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Buckeyes Football

Report: OSU to suspend Urban Meyer

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The Ohio State University board of trustees have been verbally read in on the findings of a 14-day investigation in to the conduct of football head coach Urban Meyer. 

So, what will happen next? 

According to the Columbus Dispatch, it appears a suspension or even lighter punishment is coming for Meyer:

“Two sources connected to the investigation said the likely recommendation to university President Michael V. Drake is a suspension for Meyer. Drake and the board could also opt for a ‘time served’ punishment since Meyer has been removed from football activities for more than two weeks.”

Meyer has already been on suspension (or paid administrative leave) for the better part the month of August.

The meeting on Monday was able to take place because it was an “informational meeting” and no public business was conducted. However, there is a meeting scheduled for 9a.m. on Wednesday to discuss just what punishment would be recommended. 

Ultimately it will be the university president that makes the final decision, but the board of trustees will meet to send their recommendation to President Michael V. Drake, who is likely to adhere to the recommendation of the board. 

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Ohio State wins Cotton Bowl Classic: The good, bad and what it means for 2018

Buckeyes defense dominates USC en route to Cotton Bowl Classic victory.

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Some may say that Ohio State had a real gripe about not being selected to the College Football Playoff this season. Whether the Buckeyes believed they were snubbed or not, they certainly took out any frustration on USC in the Cotton Bowl Classic.

Ohio State used a dominating night on defense and just enough offense to beat the Trojans 24-7. Four turnovers were forced by the Buckeyes defense, resulting in a pick six and a huge shift in momentum late in the game too.

The win sends quarterback J.T. Barrett out on a high note, but it wasn’t his best effort on the field. He had just 114 yards passing and no touchdowns, while also putting up a Buckeyes-best 66 yards on the ground as well.

Luckily those 66 yards were enough to find the end zone twice in the first half for OSU.

Barrett got the Buckeyes on the board on their first possession and then put the Buckeyes up 24-0 on a 28-yard run late in the second quarter. However, it appeared momentum was shifting late in the half as Ronald Jones II put the ball over the goal line with just 1:29 to play in the first half.

That was it for the scoring though and it was a massive defensive message to the critics of the Buckeyes.

It all added up to the Big Ten coming away from a loaded day of action with a 5-0 record. Not only did the Buckeyes win, but so did Northwestern to help the Big Ten continue its banner bowl game start.

The Good

J.T. Barrett Continued to be Legendary

Few players in the history of Ohio State football have had the career that quarterback J.T. Barrett has had. Yet, it feels strange to say his career has been legendary. Maybe its the fact that he missed out on a Big Ten and national championship in 2015? Maybe it’s the fact that it somehow took until his senior season to win a Big Ten title as the quarterback?

Whatever it was, Barrett’s career just seemed incomplete. But, on Friday night Barrett added to his collegiate legend, setting the Big Ten’s total yards record that was previously held by some guy named Drew Brees.

There’s little doubt that Barrett is going to be remembered in Columbus for some time. Most importantly, Barrett was able to complete a post-season with a Big Ten championship and a win in a New Year’s Six game.

Not a bad way to go out in your college career.

Defense Got Turnover Happy

Ohio State showed it had a really good defense down the stretch run of the regular season, but it seemed to finally all come together in the Cotton Bowl. The Buckeyes forced USC quarterback and talked-about No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft, Sam Darnold, to look rather average at best.

Part of Darnold’s issue came in the form of turnovers. Well, Darnold and USC in general, as the Trojans gave up the ball via turnover a whopping four times.

The last of which came as Darnold got hit from behind and let the ball fall right in to the waiting arms of an OSU defensive lineman.

It all added up to a USC offense that came in averaging 35 points per game being completely shutdown.

Let’s just say it was a great time for OSU to give its best defensive performance of the season too.

The Bad

Ohio State’s Offensive Performance

While a 24-7 scoreline would seem flattering, Ohio State’s offense really did minimal work on Friday night.

The Buckeyes amassed just 277 yards on 55 plays in the game, including just 114 yards in the passing game. Barrett getting a win in his final game was nice, but his passing game wasn’t. Barrett finished the game 11 of 17 passing for just 114 yards and no touchdowns.

Even more telling? The dynamic duo of J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber was held to just 57 yards combined.

Given the domination of the defense all of this seems to be a bit nit-picky, but it should also be worrisome because this offense was up and down all 2017.

What it Means for 2018

It’s hard to say that this one game was make or break for any Ohio State players and their NFL draft status, but that is really the key from this game. Did Sam Hubbard’s great night make his decision easier? How many other guys will take off after this game?

Ultimately that is what is going to matter most heading in to the 2018 offseason.

However, what we can take away from the Cotton Bowl is the fact that the Buckeyes need some real work on the offensive side of the ball. Some of it is just simply growing up for young players, but we also saw what we saw most of this year in the pass game for OSU — there aren’t a lot of receiving options.

That group has got to regroup in a major way or the Buckeyes won’t be going anywhere but backwards on offense in 2018.

Dwayne Haskins is a better pure passer than J.T. Barrett, but it may not matter if no one can get open. Sure, you can give credit to the Trojans secondary, but the Buckeyes receivers did nothing to help themselves either.

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