After a wild Week 1 in college football, both the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Tulsa Golden Hurricane emerged victorious. OSU rolled over Bowling Green 77-10, while Tulsa picked up a 45-10 win over San Jose State.
The matchup between the two universities will be the first one between the two schools. All-time, Tulsa has a record of 471-427-18, while the Buckeyes are 756-252-36 in program history.
On paper, the matchup between the two schools is a classic David-versus-Goliath showdown. While OSU is ranked No. 4 in the latest Associated Press poll, Tulsa is unranked.
OSU had more than 55,000 undergraduates attending classes last year. Tulsa, on the other hand, has just 3,473 students, making it the smallest FBS school in terms of undergraduate enrollment.
Although they seem worlds apart on paper, both teams are replacing key starters on both sides of the ball. Thirteen freshman played for Tulsa against San Jose State, while 10 first-year players made their debut in the Scarlet and Gray.
Regardless of rankings or all-time records, OSU coach Urban Meyer is not taking his team’s next opponent lightly.
“We’ve got a tough one coming up this week,” Meyer said. “A team that beat San Jose soundly from the get-go.”
Redshirt senior quarterback Dane Evans has started in 31 games for Tulsa, including last week’s contest with San Jose State. Evans led the American Athletic Conference last season in passing yards per game with 333.2 yards.
Tulsa enjoyed efficient passing from Evans last year, as he completed 62.9 percent of his passes and threw for 25 touchdowns with eight interceptions. The Buckeyes have their own returning starter in redshirt junior J.T. Barrett. After shaking off an early pick six against Bowling Green, Barrett went on to throw for 349 yards and six touchdowns, including a rushing touchdown.
Barrett was instrumental in the national championship run for OSU before breaking his ankle against Michigan in the final regular season game of 2014. After a down year statistically in 2015, the DeSoto, Texas, native is fully healthy with the starting position firmly in his grasp.
Barrett knows what Tulsa brings to the table offensively, and how different they are from OSU.
“They do a lot more play-action but probably don’t run the ball as much,” Barrett said.
After sustaining a season ending injury in November, Tulsa senior Keevan Lucas has his first game action since suffering a torn patellar tendon in 2015. He hauled in six receptions for 112 yards.
In an almost identical scenario, the Buckeyes will turn to their own formerly injured receiver — redshirt sophomore Noah Brown — who broke his leg during practice before the start of last season. Coming in with just one career reception, Brown pulled in three receptions for 46 yards and a touchdown.
The Golden Hurricane are returning their leading rusher from 2015 in junior D’Angelo Brewer, while the Buckeyes replaced their second all-time leading rusher Ezekiel Elliott.
Brewer provided much of Tulsa’s offensive fire power in its first game, rushing for 164 yards and three touchdowns. OSU redshirt freshman Mike Weber, who assumed the role of starting running back for OSU, rushed for 136 yards and no scores.
“(They have) very talented receivers, two NFL prospects at wide receiver (and) a returning veteran at quarterback,” Meyer said.
Tulsa defensive coordinator Bill Young has quite the history with the Buckeyes. A former defensive coordinator with OSU from 1988 to 1995, Young made defensive play-calls under former OSU coach John Cooper.
Last season, Tulsa surrendered an average of 536 yards per game. The Golden Hurricane ranked nearly last in the country on defense at 126th in the nation.
In contrast, OSU ranked within the top 10, giving up an average of 311.3 yards per game last year. Although the Buckeyes were a force on defense, eight starters have been replaced this year.
Junior linebacker Raekwon McMillan, the leading tackler for the Buckeyes last year, is on the Butkis Award watch list for 2016, and was announced as a captain for the team earlier this year.
For Tulsa, sixth-year senior linebacker Trent Martin enjoyed his best year of production in the 2015 season, totaling 104 tackles and two sacks.
In all, 12 players that started a game for the Golden Hurricane in their careers return for Tulsa this season. The experience showed, as the team only gave up 53 yards rushing to San Jose State, the lowest total given up by the team since 2012.
The Buckeyes were equally successful in Week 1. Bowling Green only mustered 244 yards and failed to score an offensive touchdown.
The compelling matchup between two defenses that stifled their respective opponents during Week 1 sets up for a stalemate throughout the game. However, the offense of OSU has depth through multiple positions, and a legion of wide receivers that can take over a game in a hurry.
The veteran knowledge of Barrett against a Tulsa secondary that lost its leading tackler from last season and struggled against the pass last year spells trouble for the Golden Hurricane.
The sheer speed, size and experience of key starters for the Buckeyes should provide enough of an edge for the Scarlet and Gray. Although Week 2 brings a compelling matchup, OSU has a good chance of emerging with its record unscathed.