Amid all the talk about Xs and Os, the depth chart, injuries, opponents, etc., Ohio State Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer finds time to throw a few deep thoughts out there from time to time.
On Labor Day, two days after his team opened the season with a 77-10 rout of Bowling Green at Ohio Stadium, Meyer brought up the issues of image, reputation and identity.
“So often people worry and spend so much time on what people think of you,” Meyer said. “You call it your image. And then the second thing is the reputation you have, whether it’s correct or incorrect. You can’t really control that all the time. But what we’re going to spend all our time on is our what our identity is.”
Meyer planned to talk to the Buckeyes about their identity on Tuesday. They’ve only had one game to forge that identity. They beat up a Mid-American Conference school, as they often do. They jumped to No. 4 in both polls, for whatever that’s worth in the age of the College Football Playoff.
Now they face the first of two opponents from Oklahoma. The Tulsa Golden Hurricane visit Ohio Stadium at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. The Buckeyes head west a week later to play at the University of Oklahoma in Norman.
Here are seven things to know about the first meeting between Tulsa and Ohio State:
1. Strong offense: Tulsa beat San Jose State 45-10 in its opener. D’Angelo Brewer rushed for 164 yards and three touchdowns. Tulsa rushed for 305 yards and threw for 207.
Keevan Lucas caught six passes for 112 yards. Josh Atkinson, one of the top receivers in the nation, had two catches for 42 yards.
Quarterback Dane Evans, who threw for the second-most yards in school history last season (4,332), completed 12 of 23 passes for 198 yards with one touchdown.
“We’ve worked extremely hard on the running game,” second-year Tulsa coach Phillip Montgomery said after the win, “and that’s always been a staple of what we do. We had a few dropped balls in there. (Evans) had a couple of deep throws that I thought were on the money that we either stumbled on or just didn’t look all the way in. But those are things that are going to happen early in the season and happen early in games, and so he did a nice job of executing what we needed to do.”
2. Baylor connection: Montgomery spent seven seasons at Baylor and the final three seasons there as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Baylor led the nation in total offense and scoring offense in two of those seasons. He coached Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III in 2011.
“You always worry about tackling in space because this is one of those Baylor-type offenses where if you miss a tackle, it’s a bad day,” Meyer said. “They have two NFL-caliber receivers. I thought our defense played well in the first game. Off the top of my head, I don’t remember many missed tackles.”
3. Ohio State connection: Former Ohio State coach John Cooper was the head coach at Tulsa for eight seasons (1977-84). He was 56-32. Tulsa won five Missouri Valley Conference championships.
Bill Young, Tulsa’s co-defensive coordinator, was the defensive coordinator at Ohio State under Cooper from 1998-95.
“I’ve known coach Young for a long time and have tremendous respect for him,” Meyer said. “They’re very sound, very good tacklers. With an old-school guy like Bill Young, they’re not a Star Wars defense.”
4. Big mismatch: Judging by enrollment, this game should be no contest. Tulsa has the smallest undergraduate enrollment in the FBS (3,473). Ohio State ranked third in enrollment in the 2015-16 academic year (55,508).
This will be the largest crowd ever to see a Tulsa football game. The Buckeyes drew 107,193 fans to their opener. Tulsa played in front 85,657 last year at Oklahoma.
5. Injury news: Ohio State linebacker Dante Booker is questionable. Joe Burger and Jerome Baker will get his playing time if he can’t play. Burger had four tackles in the opener.
“He’s a guy that knows our defense inside-out. He made all the right calls, got everybody in the right place and played well when he was in there.”
Tyler Durbin will start at kicker again, but Sean Nuernberg is about ready to compete for the starting job again, Meyer said.
6. Quick tempo: Tulsa gave up four sacks in its opener. Ohio State’s defense recorded only two sacks against a Bowling Green offense intent on making quick passes. It will be similar with Tulsa, which runs a fast-paced offense like Ohio State’s.
“It’s frustrating when they get the ball out so fast,” defensive lineman Jalyn Holmes said. “You’ve just got to keep coming. We see that with our offense, too. We just have to keep playing hard.”
7. Opposing viewpoint: Tulsa will have to stop an offense that posted a school-record 776 yards of total offense in the opener. Quarterback J.T. Barrett threw six touchdown passes and ran for another.
“I think obviously when you start looking at what they’ve got coming back it all starts with their quarterback,” Montgomery said. “J.T.’s a good payer. I recruited him in high school, got a chance to know him a little bit. He’s an exceptional young man. He takes being a good quarterback seriously. If he’s anything like he was in high school, he’s a gym rat type of guy.”