NORMAN, Okla. — After a weather delay of more than an hour, Ohio State finally escaped a cramped visitor’s locker room and jogged onto Owen Field to warm up. As the team crossed the back of the end zone and approached Oklahoma’s tunnel, the Sooners tried to take the field too.
Except they couldn’t. Instead, the Sooners watched one of the youngest teams in the country run right through them. That continued once the game started.
Despite returning only six starters from last season’s squad, Ohio State stamped its passport as a playoff contender on Saturday, with a resounding 45-24 rout of the Sooners.
The too-fast, too-furious Buckeyes harassed Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, who most certainly didn’t light them up. Instead, Ohio State’s basic but dominant defense picked off Mayfield twice, with Jerome Baker returning the first off a Jalyn Holmes tip 68 yards for a first-quarter touchdown.
From there, the blowout only ballooned. Ohio State’s dynamic defensive backfield, headlined by super sophomores Malik Hooker and Marshon Lattimore, blanketed Oklahoma’s receivers with ease, save for a couple of plays. Whenever Mayfield escaped from the pocket, he found no reprieve via an open receiver downfield. Up front, the Buckeyes contained Oklahoma’s running back tandem of Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon well enough.
On the other side of the ball, the poise of quarterback J.T. Barrett, the speed of running backs Mike Weber and Curtis Samuel and the acrobatic pass-catching of Noah Brown, who hauled in four touchdowns, overwhelmed Oklahoma’s defense. Underscoring its supremacy across the board, Ohio State dropped off 35 points in the first half, the most Oklahoma had surrendered in a first half since USC scored 38 against the Sooners in the 2004 BCS championship game.
Like those 2004 Trojans, these Buckeyes look the part of a title contender. And the most frightening element for the rest of college football? Ohio State starts only two seniors. These Buckeyes, who just dismantled a team that made the playoff last year on its home field, figure to only get better.