COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State burst out of the gate this season at a pace that defies their youth.
With only six returning starters from last season, the Buckeyes have shown no signs of a drop-off from coach Urban Meyer's previous teams with a 2-0 start against overmatched opponents.
Ohio State (2-0) climbed to No. 3 in this week's Associated Press poll after a 48-3 victory over Tulsa on Saturday at a rain-soaked Ohio Stadium after destroying Bowling Green 77-10 in its opener.
Now comes the first big test this week when the Buckeyes travel to Norman, Okla., to face No. 14 Oklahoma (1-1) in a matchup of storied college football programs on Saturday night (7:30 p.m. Fox Sports).
The young and talented Buckeyes are eager to test their mettle before going into Big Ten play against a top-shelf program at Oklahoma. This is the type of game between giants that players and college fans circle on the calendar.
This summer, the Associated Press ranked the top 100 college football teams since 1936 and Ohio State was ranked No. 1 and Oklahoma No. 2. The two programs have combined to win 12 AP poll championships.
Though the Sooners stumbled in their opener with a loss to Houston, which is coached by former Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman, there still will be an electric atmosphere in renovated Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
Ohio State's defense was the story in the win over Tulsa. The Buckeyes forced six Tulsa turnovers and completely throttled a team that finished 13th in the country in total offense a year ago.
The defense returned only three starters from last season, but playmakers are emerging all over the field for the Buckeyes, who have given up 13 points in two games and seven of those came on an interception return for a touchdown.
"We still have to go a little bit," Lattimore said, "but we're ready. I told the guys we've got the talent. If we perfect the schemes, we can come out with the win at Oklahoma."
When it was pointed out that the defense has not given up a touchdown this season, Ohio State linebacker and leading tackler Raekwon McMillan said, "We don't like field goals, either.
"It feels good not letting anybody in the zone. Hopefully, we can do the same thing next week (against Oklahoma). They're a great team that has great athletes. We're going to try and keep it going."
Quarterback Baker Mayfield and the Oklahoma offense have more weapons than Ohio State's defense has faced so far. The Sooners rebounded from the opening loss with a 59-17 rout of Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday.
The Buckeyes' offense, meanwhile, got off to a slow start against Tulsa. Ohio State was leading just 6-3 late in the second quarter before Hooker and Lattimore returned interceptions for touchdowns that make it 20-3 at halftime.
After a storm delay extended halftime, the offense came out and pounded on Tulsa in the second half to pull away.
Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett ran for two touchdowns after halftime to lead the rejuvenated offense. In the first two games, the junior has passed four six touchdowns and run for three.
"That was a hard thing in the first half," Barrett said. "They threw the kitchen sink at us. It was a really good defense. With that being said, trying to adjust to that on the sideline was kind of rough in the first half. Once we got to halftime we made better adjustments. I don't think we underestimated them at all. They did a good job of game planning. They've got coaches that get paid too."
The Buckeyes certainly won't underestimate Oklahoma this week. H-back Dontre Wilson knows the offense has to start better against the Sooners than it did against Tulsa.
"That's the plan not to start that way and I don't think we'll start that way," Wilson said. "We've got to establish the running game. Once the running game pops, we can start doing better."
PLAYERS TO WATCH
--QB J.T. Barrett -- Although his numbers weren't as impressive against Tulsa as in the opening win over Bowling Green, the junior continues to play at a high level. Barrett scored two of Ohio State's four rushing touchdowns in last Saturday's 48-3 win over Tulsa. He now has accounted for 76 touchdowns during his three-year career, including 25 on the ground. The Buckeyes will rely on Barrett's steady veteran leadership this week in a hostile and noisy environment at Oklahoma.
--S Malik Hooker -- The athletic redshirt freshman followed up his two-interception game in the opener with one more against Tulsa in Week 2. Hooker added four tackles and a pass breakup against the Golden Hurricane. He is one of three new starters in the secondary this year that so far has shown tremendous potential. But Hooker's first big test should come this week against Oklahoma's passing offense.
--H-back Curtis Samuel -- The junior is finally starting to utilize his considerable talent in coach Urban Meyer's offense. Meyer said Samuel has grown into the hybrid back position and possesses the size and speed now that's reflected in his production after two games. Samuel has 401 yards rushing and receiving in the two wins. He's a dual threat as a runner and pass catcher that the offensive coaches can move around the field in an attempt to create mismatches. Against Oklahoma this week, Samuel no doubt will be a key player to help the Buckeyes keep the Sooners' defense off balance.