Baker Mayfield feels the responsibility. It still pains him to think about what happened.
Last September, Ohio State came to Norman, Oklahoma, and did what few teams have done to the college football powerhouse that resides there.
The 45-24 final score may not have even been indicative of how thoroughly Urban Meyer’s squad controlled the early-season matchup.
“We let down our fans, our coaches and everyone who supports our program,” Mayfield said. “And a lot of that was on me.”
In fairness, OU was outplayed across the board. But football is a sport that gives more pressure and more praise to quarterbacks than anyone else. And as a multi-year starter and Heisman Trophy hopeful, he knows there is an added sense of responsibility.
Both teams went on to strong seasons after last year’s meeting – Oklahoma won the Big 12 title for the 10th time in the past 17 years, while the Buckeyes went 11-1 in the regular season.
Saturday night, it’s a showdown in the rematch. Ohio State enters ranked No. 2 by the Associated Press, with OU checking in at No. 5. The storylines are everywhere, from it being the first big test for new Sooner coach Lincoln Riley to the teams’ interesting series results – in three previous meetings, the visiting team has won each time.
Ohio State was in a dogfight for a while in its opener last week, trailing much of the first half against Indiana before running away from the Hoosiers after halftime in a 49-21 victory.
“We just have to get some things fixed, but game one and two you identify the problems, fix them, and get going,” Meyer said after the win.
The Sooners had an easier time in their opener, routing an overmatched UTEP squad 56-7. While it was a game they knew going in they’d win, the Sooners were encouraged by the efficiency they were able to show against the Miners.
“It was very important going into one of the biggest weeks of the season,” said Orlando Brown, an All-American candidate at offensive tackle for the Sooners. “The urgency’s there, we just have to be ready to go out there and compete on Saturday.”
Brown and the Sooner line face a stern test from an Ohio State front seven considered among the nation’s best. Led by the likes of Sam Hubbard, Jalyn Holmes and Tyquan Lewis up front, the Buckeyes can wreak havoc on literally every snap.
And they’re aware the key to stopping the Sooners starts with Mayfield, the first man who will have the football in his hands on every play.
“One thing I learned about Baker Mayfield is that he’s a competitor,” said Buckeye linebacker Jerome Baker. “That’s what I loved about last year. Every play you could tell he was competing, no matter the score. That’s why I have so much respect for him. That’s why I’m so excited to play against him.”
Fans on all sides are excited to see how it plays out Saturday night in Columbus.