At Campus Pressbox, as my emailers often remind me, I don’t usually get things right. But there is a singular, glorious exception: my spot-on Houston vs. Oklahoma prediction. Now, as Oklahoma gears up to battle Ohio State- the Big Ten’s biggest gun- in primetime, I’m faced with yet another tough decision. Should I place my bets on the Buckeyes, a talented yet unproven contender early in the season? Or should I reconcile with the Sooners, a talented team proven to be composed of choke artists early in the season?
My mother raised me on a steady dose of antiquated morals and maxims and such. One of them goes like this: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Picking against Oklahoma ain’t broke, so I certainly ain’t fixing it.
(My mother also taught me that ain’t ain’t a word because ain’t ain’t in the dictionary. But “ain’t” is currently in the dictionary, and I’m allegedly a college sports writer now. So, sorry mom.)
Here’s a different maxim that my mother had no role in teaching me: the Big 12 sucks. After Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, and Kansas State all failed to rise to their respective challenges, I’m officially deserting the conference as a likely playoff contender. In Weeks 1 and 2, while the Big 10 entered the conversation of rivaling the SEC for the honor of being the Power 5’s strongest conference, the Big 12 entered the conversation of rivaling the Pac 12 for the dishonor of being the Power 5’s weakest conference.
Of course, you wouldn’t know that from listening to backup quarterback Austin Kendall’s comments yesterday, in which he downplayed Ohio State’s “really basic defense” and emphasized Baker Mayfield’s ability to “light [that defense] up”.
But Kendall didn’t stop there. He also reminded the Buckeyes to keep an eye out for Oklahoma’s secret weapon: himself. “If my number is called,” he rambled, “I think I can do the same [as Mayfield].” I’m sure Luke Fickell and Greg Schiano are searching frantically for Austin Kendall game film as we speak. They’ll have a tough time finding any, however, as Kendall is only fifteen passes better than I am at college football. After losing to an 11.5-point underdog, Kendall inexplicably handed billboard material to the program with the biggest billboard in the country. Boomer Sooner, baby.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that you don’t lose just four games in four seasons by fostering basic defense. Maybe they play “basic defense” because they actually have talent on that side of the ball, unlike, you know, literally every team in the Big 12. Maybe they don’t need all the empty gimmicks that lesser teams employ. Or, maybe Ohio State’s defense seemed basic because- oh, I don’t know- they’ve played Bowling Green and Tulsa this season. Last time I checked, neither are prolific offenses.
Here’s another maxim my mother taught me: the pot shouldn’t call the kettle black. The pot especially shouldn’t call the kettle black if the kettle isn’t black. I mean that’s just silly.
Oklahoma has no room to criticize Ohio State’s “basic” defense, especially because Ohio State’s defense isn’t basic. Sure, the unit lacks experience, but when you recruit the talent Ohio State does, lacking experience doesn’t make you basic. Lacking experience makes your defense eleven ballhawks that are bigger, faster, and stronger than the eleven guys across the field. You can’t call playmakers like Malik Hooker, Raekwon McMillan, Sam Hubbard, and Marshon Lattimore “basic”. They’ll show you up.
So, we joke, but in all seriousness- does the Big 12 know what defense is?
There is not a team in college football that resembles more closely Houston’s pro-spread attack than Ohio State, and that’s really, really bad news for Oklahoma. See, Austin Kendall could be right. Baker Mayfield could light the Buckeyes up for 323 yards- just like he did against Houston, but it wouldn’t matter. If Oklahoma doesn’t learn to stop dynamic playmakers like J.T. Barrett and Greg Ward Jr., it can’t expect to be considered a legitimate contender anymore. Unless our man Kendall, Oklahoma’s newfound and self-proclaimed savior, plans on suiting up as a pass rusher of some sort, that improvement won’t be happening.
I’m sorry Sooner fans. That wasn’t a very nice thing to say. That’s something else my mother taught me: if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
Well, sorry mom.
Oklahoma is overrated. Its conference is overrated. Its quarterback is overrated. Its backup quarterback is overrated. And its chances against Ohio State? Overrated. Ohio State will deliver a swift yet vengeful fist to the Sooners’ jaw on Saturday night. And you know what? There ain’t a damn thing they can do about it.