COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio State defensive line is widely viewed as the best defensive line in the country, so dominant that its defensive coordinator believes it’s better than pro units he’s coached.
Now the Buckeyes will have a chance to prove just how good they are Saturday night against Oklahoma.
Stacked with talent from top to bottom and led by an outstanding coach in Larry Johnson, Ohio State’s defensive line will go up against a unit receiving a similar amount of acclaim as the best unit at its position. In his preseason magazine, Phil Steele ranked Oklahoma the No. 1 offensive line in the country.
Defensive end Nick Bosa summed it up best when describing what the battle will mean for the Ohio State defensive line. Dominating the Sooners at the line of scrimmage would validate everything that’s been said about them, while coming up short would invite doubt.
The Buckeyes haven’t been shy about wanting to go down as the best defensive line in college football history. But that can’t happen without proving themselves against Oklahoma.
“We’re excited because they’re hyped up as the No. 1 O-line, and we’ve been hyped up as the best D-line for so long that it’s starting to get annoying,” Bosa said. “But it’s time to prove it. When you’re facing an O-line with a potential first-round left tackle, this is where you show what you’ve got. If you can beat them, you can beat anybody.
“I don’t think we’ve faced an O-line with this much hype. Last year I don’t think we did. Clemson was pretty good. This is definitely the best O-line we’ve ever faced. With Coach J, who’s the best defensive line coach in the country, he’s losing his mind. He wants us to get this one. We’re ready and we want to do it for him. It’s going to be fun.”
In a game starring Baker Mayfield and J.T. Barrett — two of the most prolific quarterbacks in college football — the outcome could be decided up front.
“People might put the headline as J.T. Barrett and I, but it’s going to be a huge matchup in the trenches,” Mayfield told reporters Tuesday. “I think every game starts up front. That’s a big thing for our guys, and our defensive line as well. It’s going to be a huge challenge for us.
“The big games like this, you see how physical you are. It’s going to be a challenge for our offensive line and defensive line. You see the big names they have, and I think we have some big names up front, too. They got us last year, but it’s a whole different year. So we’ll see.”
The Buckeyes certainly know what they’re up against. Urban Meyer was complimentary of the Sooners, saying they do a great job of controlling the line of scrimmage. Left tackle Jamarco Jones praised his counterpart at Oklahoma, the 6-foot-8, 345-pound Orlando Brown, who is projected as a future first-round pick.
Bosa, who was essentially unblockable against Indiana, also gave his endorsement of what he’s seen from the Sooners.
“The film looks good,” he said. “They look really good. What helps is they have a quarterback that can escape and that probably helps their sack totals. I think they’re beatable, but they’re definitely good.”
This is a chance for Johnson’s group to prove not only that it’s the best defensive line in the country, but one of the best groups regardless of position. Rest assured, they’re excited for the task at hand.
“You really do look forward to it,” defensive end Jalyn Holmes said. “I love to hunt.”
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