The No. 8 ranked Oklahoma Sooners will get the 2017 season underway at home against the UTEP Miners. Kickoff is set for 3:30 EST at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 2nd.
Oddsmakers aren’t expecting this to all that competitive. The Sooners are listed as a massive 44.5-point favorite. Though it has dropped a few points from what it opened at. The total for this contest is 62.5 points. Click here for more Week 1 betting odds and game previews.
Oklahoma vs UTEP Vegas Betting Odds & Game Preview
An 0-2 start to last season cost the Sooners a return trip to the College Football Playoffs. It was the price they paid for scheduling the likes of Houston and Ohio State in non-conference. Those would be the only two defeats they would suffer. Oklahoma finished 11-2, which included a perfect 9-0 mark in the Big 12 and 35-19 victory over Auburn in the Sugar Bowl.
With 16 starters back, including Heisman candidate Baker Mayfield at quarterback, expectations were sky high going into 2017. Then came the shocking news that head coach Bob Stoops was calling it quits after 18 years. Now it’s up to OC Lincoln Riley to fill the shoes of Stoops. As you can see by their preseason ranking, the media still likes this team. Others aren’t so sure how the loss of Stoops and some big time weapons on offense might impact this season.
UTEP hasn’t had a lot of success on the gridiron of late. The Miners finished a mere 4-8 in 2016 and have been to a whopping two bowl games since 2005. One of those trips did come under current head coach Sean Kugler back in 2014, so there is at least some hope surrounding the program.
Kugler will try to improve on his 18-31 record in 4 seasons with the Miners. It won’t be easy with the return of just 12 starters. Not too mention the loss of running back Aaron Jones, who rushed for 1,7732 yards (ridiculous 7.7 yards/carry) and 17 touchdowns.
Free College Football ATS Prediction: UTEP +44.5
I tend to stay away from these games with these huge spread early in the year, but I think there’s some value with this one. I’m not saying Oklahoma isn’t a great team, I just have a hard time believing they are as good as last year’s squad.
Say what you want about what Riley has done with the offense, being a head coach is a whole different beast. Some guys aren’t made out for it. We will soon find out if he is. Either way, I feel like he’s been put in a tough spot, as Stoops didn’t leave the program until early summer. That puts a lot on Riley’s plate with the pressure this team has to win the Big 12.
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Getting back 16 starters is never a bad thing. It’s extremely rare for a big time program like Oklahoma, who has a decent amount of guys leave early for the draft. The thing is, they lost some dynamic players on both sides of the ball. They lose not one, but two 1,000-yard rushers in Joe Mixon (also No. 2 receiver) and Samaje Perine. They also lost wide out DeDe Westbrook and his 1,524 yards and 17 scores. Defensively they lose their rock at linebacker in Jordan Evans, who led the team in tackles. Evans also had 2.5 sacks, 7.5 tackles for loss, 8 pass breakups and 4 interceptions.
The combination of Riley and Mayfield will have Oklahoma scoring a lot of points, I just think it won’t be at the clip from last year. At least not early in the year.
The other thing going against the Sooners is the fact that they are going to have a hard time not looking ahead to their game the following week at Ohio State. Running up the score against a team like UTEP isn’t as important as being healthy for the Buckeyes.
Lastly, I think UTEP is capable of scoring some points here. They have one of the best offensive lines you are going to find in the ‘Group of 5’ programs. That at least makes replacing Jones a little easier and they are high on true freshman running back Josh Fields. They also found their guy at quarterback last year in Ryan Metz. He had a 14-4 TD-INT ration in 7 starts and completed 65% of his passes. That’s the guy you want to back in garbage time to steal a cover, though I don’t he’ll need to.