Preview: Can Bucks Contain Mayfield?

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It was his worst performance of 2016. Then junior quarterback Baker Mayfield threw two picks, including a Jerome Baker pick-six, as the Buckeyes walked out with a 45-24 victory. Oklahoma has not lost since. Mayfield would end 2016 throwing for 40 touchdowns against only 8 interceptions. That defeat to the Buckeyes continues to haunt Mayfield, as he reflected in an interview with Tulsa World, “We’ve never been here for a team to sing their fight song on our field…Quite frankly, it’s just embarrassing.”

Mayfield holds the key to a Sooners victory. This season, the Sooners have taken a step back in the running game, replacing star backs Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon. The strength of the offense relies squarely on Mayfield’s arm. He’ll be throwing it to one of the country’s best tight ends in Mark Andrews, and downfield threat wide receiver Jeff Badet. Under pressure from OSU’s defensive line, can Mayfield find the time to make plays down the field?

The Buckeyes should be able to run the ball with the smash-and-dash combination of J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber. Ohio State gashed Oklahoma on the ground last season, rushing for 291 yards — 123 yards by Weber. The Buckeyes will get their yards on the ground, and will be tough to stop if the passing game can keep the Sooners defense honest.

Oklahoma Path to Victory: Baker Mayfield makes plays against a shaky OSU secondary. Oklahoma tight end Mark Andrews has a star performance. The Sooners defense controls Ohio State’s passing game, stacking the box against the Buckeye run. Dobbins and Weber are held in check.

Ohio State Path to Victory: Ohio State establishes the running game early and often. Balanced play calling sees the run set up the pass. A Buckeye wide receiver has a breakthrough performance (keep an eye on Johnnie Dixon). The Buckeye defensive line forces Mayfield to make errant throws and puts him on his back.

Prediction: This is a scoring duel that goes late into the 4th quarter. OSU’s defensive front ultimately forces Mayfield into making costly turnovers. The Sooners have no answer to slow the Buckeyes smash-and-dash ground attack. Ohio State 31, Oklahoma 24.

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