COLUMBUS – In its first two games, Ohio State’s defense has contended with one quarterback who has thrown for 4,300 yards in a season and another who has thrown for 3,100 yards and held them to a combined sub-50 percent completion rate.
But on Saturday when No. 3 OSU (2-0) goes to No. 14 Oklahoma (1-1) it will face a quarterback and a cast surrounding him that is probably at least a level or two up from the type of competition it saw against Bowling Green and Tulsa.
Co-defensive coordinator Greg Schiano says Oklahoma and its quarterback Baker Mayfield will be “a step up in athleticism”
“It (Ohio State’s defense) has been good. The real test starts Saturday with going on the road and playing a really high level football team,” Schiano said. “This is definitely a step up in athleticism that we’re playing.
“This is big boy football. I’m excited to see our guys’ response,” he said.
Mayfield passed for 3,700 yards and 36 touchdowns with only seven interceptions last season when Oklahoma was a semifinalist in the College Football Playoff. This year he has passed for 567 yards and five touchdowns without an interception.
One of the things Mayfield is known for is his ability to extend a play by eluding a pass rush.
Some people compare his skill in that area to Ben Roethlisberger. But Schiano said Mayfield reminds him of a different NFL quarterback.
“I liken him to Brett Favre when I was with the Bears (as an assistant coach in the 1990s) because he’s so unpredictable. He will be scrambling this way and chuck it that way. How do you coach that, other than telling your guys to be disciplined and stay with their guys?”
Middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan’s assessment of Mayfield started with his ability to keep a play alive.
“When you think you’ve got him on the ground or you think you’ve extended coverage for five or six seconds he breaks out and creates another four or five seconds for his offense. He creates more time on plays and more time for receivers to get open.
“It’s hard to play defense for 10 or 12 seconds,” McMillan said.
Oklahoma back-up quarterback Austin Kendall gave Ohio State a little bulletin board material on Wednesday night when he said Mayfield will “light up” OSU’s defense.
Ohio State’s defense has not allowed an offensive touchdown in two games. Ends Tyquan Lewis and Sam Hubbard have provided a formidable pass rush. McMillan is the leader of an athletic group of linebackers and, even with three first-year starters, the defensive backfield has done nearly impeccable work.
But they haven’t done it against anyone who possesses the skill level of Oklahoma.
“We’re ready. That’s all I can say. We’re ready for anything,” cornerback Marshon Lattimore said.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.