Huge Oklahoma D-Line Will Challenge Buckeyes’ Ground Game

MITCH STACY, AP Sports Writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) —
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer admittedly worries about everything, and near the top of the list this week is how the Buckeyes are going to run the ball Saturday against Oklahoma’s huge and experienced defensive front.

After breaking school records for offense in its first game, No. 3 Ohio State (2-0) started slow last week against Tulsa and didn’t get the train back on the tracks until the second half. Meyer knows the Buckeyes can’t afford a slow start against the No. 14 Sooners, especially when it comes to establishing the run against their heavy, run-stuffing defensive linemen Charles Walker (6-foot-2, 304 pounds), Jordan Wade (6’3″, 311) and Matt Dimon (6’2″, 270).

“You have to be really on your target to run the football on them,” Meyer said. “They’re big, gigantic guys inside. Very similar to Alabama defensive line. And obviously skilled secondaries. So I just think they’re the whole package.”

Ohio State redshirt freshman tailback Mike Weber has shown signs of brilliance in the first two games of his career, piling up 136 yards on 19 carries against Bowling Green and 92 yards on 17 carries in the victory over Tulsa. H-backs Curtis Samuel — perhaps the most valuable offensive player for Ohio State through two games — and Dontre Wilson also will test the Oklahoma front, not to mention fleet, slippery quarterback J.T. Barrett.

“I’m not worried by any means,” center Pat Elflein said of the offensive line establishing the ground game. “We had a lot of stuff thrown at us (defensively) last week, and I think it was good to get some experience with that stuff. So I’m sure Oklahoma will see that, too, try to throw some of that stuff at us and catch us off balance a little bit. I think it was good we saw all that with how young we are.”

Of the Sooners’ defensive front, Elflein said: “They’re big, they’re good with their hands, they play hard. Big strong dudes in there.”

Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano said the real season starts Saturday.

“This is definitely a step up in athleticism we’re going against,” Schiano said. “It’s no disrespect to the first two teams, this is big boy football now.”

Elflein said preparations already feel different.

“You’ve always looked ahead to this game,” he said. “You’ve seen it on the schedule, and now it’s here. We know what the task is, and we know we’re going down there at night, a big-time showdown, so it’s a different feeling for sure.”

INJURY REPORT: Meyer said linebacker Dante Booker, who injured a knee in the Bowling Green game, is probable for Oklahoma. He didn’t play against Tulsa.

DEFENSIVE BACKS ON THE RISE:

Cornerback Marshon Lattimore was named the national Walter Camp Defensive Player of the Week for his performance against Tulsa. He intercepted two passes, including a 40-yard return for a touchdown with 33 seconds left in the first half to make it 20-3 and give the Buckeyes some breathing room going into halftime. Safety Malik Hooker leads the FBS with three interceptions. He also had a pick six last week.

THE OHIO STATE CONNECTION:

Meyer said he’s already talked to Tom Herman, the former Ohio State offensive coordinator who’s now the Houston coach, about how to attack Oklahoma. Herman’s Cougars upset the Sooners in the opening week, 33-23. The loss dropped Oklahoma out of the top 10. Meyer said the discussions centered on Oklahoma’s defensive personnel.

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Online: AP College Football website http://www.collegefootball.ap.org

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Follow Mitch Stacy at http://twitter.com/mitchstacy . For some of his other recent stories: http://bigstory.ap.org/content/mitch-stacy

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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