After Saturday’s card is complete, just two games remain on the schedule for Week 1. The first of those comes Sunday night with the No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners hosting the Houston Cougars. Kickoff is set for 7:30 EST at Memorial Stadium in Norman and will be televised nationally on ABC.
Oddsmakers opened up this game with Oklahoma listed a 23.5-point favorite. That has dropped slightly to 23 at some books and to 22 at others. The total opened at 80 and can still be had, tho some 79.5s are out there.
Click on the link for a full look at the Week 1 betting odds and for more links to our game previews.
Betting Preview & Vegas Game Odds: Houston vs Oklahoma
It’s an exciting time to be a Cougars’ fan. In a bit of a shocking move, Houston was able to sign Dana Holgorsen away from West Virginia (don’t see many Power 5 coaches choosing to leave a program for a “Group of 5” team).
Holgorsen went 61-41 over 8 seasons in Morgantown. He guided the Mountaineers to two double-digit win seasons and only finished on the wrong side of .500 once. While the defense was hit or miss, you could bank on Holgorsen’s offense to put up points.
His first season in Houston will be something to watch. The Cougars return 12 starters (8 offense, 4 defense), including a Heisman long-shot at quarterback in D’Erig King. They are right there with Memphis as the co-favorites in the AAC West.
All you can do is shake your head when you think of what Lincoln Riley has done in his first two years at Oklahoma. He’s won back-to-back Big 12 titles, owns a record of 24-4 and got his team to the playoffs each year. While they didn’t make it past the semis, they played Georgia tough in 2017 (lost in OT) and Alabama last year.
Not to mention his offense has produced back-to-back Heisman winners in Baker Mayfield and Kylar Murray. Each of which went on to be the No. 1 pick in the subsequent NFL Draft.
Just when you thought they might be down with only 12 starters back (4 offense and 8 defense) and no elite guy in to take over for Murray, they land Alabama transfer Jalen Hurts to be their new QB. Oklahoma is without a doubt the team to beat in the Big 12 and a legit national title contender.
While only the third all-time meeting between the two programs, they did recently meet in 2016. Which was also the season-opener for both teams. The Cougars, who were ranked No. 15 preseason, won outright 33-23 as a 12-point dog. While it was technically played on a neutral site, it was at NRG Stadium in Houston (home of the Texans).
Free NCAA Football ATS Pick & Betting Predictions: Oklahoma -22
I would have to lean towards laying the big number with Oklahoma. I think a lot of people are going to look at this line and think there’s no way Houston should be a 20+ point dog with Dana Holgorsen in charge and King a guy people have heard a lot about.
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Whenever I see a prime time game where the public is all over the underdog, I immediately look to play the other side. The more I looked at this, the more I liked the Sooners.
Oklahoma has started out strong under Riley. In 2017 they put up 56 and covered as 43-point favorites in the opener over UTEP and Week 2 beat Ohio State 31-16 as a 7-point dog.
Last year a lot of people thought FAU had a shot of going into Norman and winning. People couldn’t help themselves but back the Owls at +20. Oklahoma led 56-0 in the 3rd quarter before calling off the dogs and wrapping up a 63-14 win.
I think people are getting a little too caught up in comparing Hurts to both Mayfield and Murray. Will Hurts put up the passing numbers of those two? Probably not. The thing is, he’ll make up for it with his legs. I think because he was so bad in that 1st half against Georgia in the 2017 title game, people just don’t give him the respect he deserves. Guy got beat out by a future top NFL draft pick.
If anyone can make him great, it’s Riley and since he took over in 2015, Oklahoma has not averaged fewer than 43.5 ppg and 530 ypg (both of those in his first season with program).
I just rambled on about the offense, which is all everyone is talking about, but the real reason to be excited about the Sooners is the addition of defensive coordinator Alex Grinch. If this team had any kind of defense the last two year, they probably win it all.
Grinch was the DC at Ohio State last year and at Washington State the 3 years prior. I think the public perception is that the Buckeyes underperformed defensively last year, but they only 5 starters back, there was outside drama and I just don’t know that the kids were 100% invested.
I look more at what Grinch was able to do at Washington State. He took over a defense that had 6 starters back from a unit that allowed 38.6 ppg and got them down to 27.7. They continued to improve each year and when he left they were giving up 25.8 ppg and 323 ypg. Oklahoma has 8 starters back and will be greatly improved on that side. I could definitely see them giving King struggles.
Houston’s defense only brings back 4 starters and lose a ton of talent. They are also learning a new scheme on that side of the ball. Hurts and the Sooners will score at will. Give me Oklahoma -22!