Houston Cougars vs. Oklahoma Sooners Expert Picks with Betting Odds
Houston Cougars vs. Oklahoma Sooners, Sunday September 1, 7:30 p.m. ET
This is going to be a very good game. Unless you like defense. Oklahoma can score at will. We know that after the last couple of years. They had the top offense in the country last year. And Houston was able to score last year - they ranked fifth nationally in that regard - and for all the faults their new head coach may have, coaching offense is not one of them. And neither program is exactly elite on defense. In a strange coincidence, the two teams tied for dead last in the nation last year in passing yards allowed with 291.4 per game. This is set up to be a shootout. A good old fashion crazy-fest. And it might be one of the biggest tests that Oklahoma faces on their quest for another playoff berth.
Houston at Oklahoma Betting Storylines
Imagine having to be the guy who takes over for a Heisman winner. Now imagine being the guy who has to take over for a Heisman winner who went first overall in the NFL Draft who took over for a Heisman winner who went first overall in the NFL Draft. It's a weird place that Jalen Hurts finds himself. But then, Hurts is a guy who has started two national title games - after leading the top team in the nation to those games both years - so he isn't your typical transfer looking for a shot in new surroundings. It's easy to be optimistic about Hurts this year given his experience and the obviously quarterback-friendly system he lands in. But don't fool yourself - we have never seen a transfer quite like this, so we have no precedent to judge this with any accuracy. And while Oklahoma has been very successful the last couple of years, they have done so while playing in as style almost as far removed as what Alabama does - on the field and elsewhere - as possible.
While Hurts is a big story here, he shouldn't overshadow Houston QB D'Eriq King. As a junior last year, he was third in the country in total touchdowns by a QB behind only Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins - he threw for 36 with just six interceptions and rushed for 14 more - and that was despite being injured in the 11th game of the year and ending his season early. He's dangerous, and new head coach Dana Holgorsen is strong enough with offense that he will bring new tricks that should only help King. And it's not like he is going to face the most elite defense in the country - though we should see some steps forward from Oklahoma on defense under new defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, who was at Ohio State last year.
The biggest issue Houston has here, despite facing an offense that loves to pass and is very good at it, is on the ground. Houston was lousy against the run last year, and they have lost five of their top seven tacklers from that unit - including Ed Oliver, who was drafted ninth overall by Buffalo. This is a massive vulnerability. And along with a very effective rushing quarterback - Hurts has nearly 2,000 career rushing yards and 23 rushing touchdowns - the Sooners have a deep and talented group of running backs. You can be certain that Oklahoma is going to run it down the throats of the Cougars in an attempt to establish the run. If and when they do, they'll be able to control the game - and to keep King and company off the field as much as possible.
Houston at Oklahoma Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Oklahoma favored by 26.5. That has since fallen to 23, with about 70 percent of bets coming in on Houston. It's possible we could see things fall a little more, but it won't move to or through the key number of 21 barring a massive development. The total sits at 80, which is very high but equally understandable.
The Cougars are 16-7 ATS in their last 23 games in September, but they have gone just 2-5 ATS in their last seven nonconference games and just 4-12 ATS in their last 16 road games. The Sooners are a very strong 15-7 ATS in the last 22 home games. Houston has gone "over" the total in their last four road games and six of their last seven overall. Oklahoma has gone over in five of their last six at home and 12 of 15 overall.
Houston at Oklahoma Predictions and Picks
The over is inflated here, but not enough to make it unattractive given the trends here. I would consider playing it, but not with recklessness. The play I like better is Houston, taking as many points as I can. This just feels like too many points. Oklahoma's defense isn't going to be as good yet as they hope it can be, and Houston's run defense is just too bad to allow Oklahoma to slow down the game too much. Houston is a relatively intact and very deep offense, and the new coaching staff can handle the change well. I don't expect Houston to win, but they can keep it closer than this price suggests. Houston in the play.
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