In looking at this year’s matchup between Oklahoma and Ohio State, I’m having a tough time coming up with what I think are worthwhile “chalk talk” points. So much has changed about both teams from last season that I don’t know how much carryover we should expect schematically from either side.
(Unfortunately for the Sooners, I think we do know that the Buckeyes still have the upper hand when comparing the squads’ talent from top to bottom.)
With that being said, I have a few random observations and thoughts on keys that will determine the outcome of the game. Let’s start with OU’s offense versus OSU’s D.
OU’s identity has changed.
A year ago, OU’s offense was predicated on its stars at the skill positions: Quarterback Baker Mayfield, running backs Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine, and receiver Dede Westbrook.
Only the signal caller remains this season, and if game one is any indication, coach Lincoln Riley has reshaped his attack accordingly. In the season-opening win over UTEP, a total of 19 players either caught a pass or carried the ball, and eight different players scored touchdowns.
A lot of that spreading of the wealth came about because of the quality of the opponent, but it’s still consistent with the idea that OU is playing more of a system-based game this season, as opposed to leveraging the skills of the team’s most talented offensive weapons.
Theoretically, I’d rather come at a loaded team like Ohio St. with a diverse arsenal than rely on a battle plan based around a couple heavy hitters. In this case, though, I’m not sure a broader cache of weapons means more firepower for the Sooners.
Add some beef.
Oklahoma’s offense might be at its best this season when rolling with bigger personnel. The Sooners have multipurpose fullback Dmitri Flowers at their disposal, along with two tight ends in Mark Andrews (6-5, 254) and Grant Calcaterra (6-3, 232) who can create uncomfortable matchups for defenses.
Watch to see if Riley unleashes sets with this triumvirate to force OSU defensive coordinator Greg Schiano to account for all those big bodies around the middle of the field. They could be even more effective when teamed with a burner such as Jeff Badet on the outside in one-on-one coverage.
Speaking of one-on-one coverage, I don’t believe that much of what Indiana did against the Buckeyes last week translates over to this game for OU.
The Hoosiers enjoyed plenty of success throwing back-shoulder fades on the sideline to wideout Simmie Cobbs (6-4, 220), who caught 11 balls for 149 yards and a touchdown versus OSU. Unlike the lanky Cobbs, I just don’t see many receivers on OU’s roster right now who have shown they can win those kinds of battles versus the Buckeye cornerbacks. Not to mention, how often have we seen Mayfield really attempt that kind of throw?
Maybe Jeff Mead has those kinds of sideline skills in him. I’d love to be proven wrong here.
Keeping Mayfield under control.
Truth be told, even though his stats weren’t terrible, Mayfield played poorly in this game last season. He often held the ball too long, which led to three crushing sacks. No. 6 also forced throws that produced two backbreaking interceptions, one of which the Buckeyes took to the house.
Some of Mayfield’s bad habits surfaced last week versus UTEP, but the Miners couldn’t capitalize on his mistakes with the same ruthless efficiency as the Buckeyes.
Mayfield’s gunslinging plays a big part in his effectiveness as a quarterback. We’ll see if Riley tries to get him to turn it down against OSU, if only for a night.