We’re nearly 24-hours away from Oklahoma kicking off their 2019 season against the Houston Cougars. The Sooners come in ranked #4 in the nation but will have a lot to prove as their replacing a number of key starters from last season. The Cougars are looking for another season-opener upset against the Sooners behind their electric dual-threat QB, D’Eriq King. The Sooners are a 24.5 point favorite and the total points O/U is set at 80

Date: Sunday, Sept 1st | 6:30pm CST

Location: Memorial StadiumNorman, Oklahoma

TV: ABC

Storyline:

College football always comes with incredible stories, but there may not be one better than that of Jalen Hurts. From being named SEC Offensive Player of the Year as a true-freshman, to being benched at half-time of the national championship game, to last season’s win over Georgia in the SEC championship — Hurts has been through it all. Now at Oklahoma, Hurts looks to finish off his story by leading Oklahoma back to playoffs. Oklahoma also looks to take their much maligned defense off the bottom floor of the college football world. It won’t be easy as Dana Holgorsen, now in Houston brings in one of the nation’s better quarterbacks and a talented core of skill players around him.

Impact Players:

Houston: It all starts with quarterback D’Eriq King. Last season, King threw for 2982 yards and 36 TD’s  at a clip of 63.5%, while rushing for 674 yards and 14 TD’s on the ground. Make what you want of Houston’s losses last season, King is legit. He’s surrounded by a number talented wide receivers headlined by Marquez Stevenson. 6’0, 190 lbs, Stevenson had a breakout year last season accruing 1019 receiving yards and 9 TD’s. Joining Stevenson is Keith Corbin (691 rec yards, 10 TD’s) and Courtney Lark (539 rec yards, 5 TD’s), both of which look to take the top off the secondary. On the ground, the Coogs return primary rusher Patrick Carr and add former Longhorn RB, Kyle Porter.

Defensively, Houston was about where the Sooners were last season and furthermore are replacing key starters at linebacker and cornerback. One player that could surprise? Defensive end, Isaiah Chambers. Chambers is coming off a season-ending injury, but impressed with 4.5 sacks in just 4 games. He’ll be a name to watch out for as Oklahoma is going to field a relatively inexperienced offensive line. One name that may be familiar? Safety, Deontay Anderson. Anderson, who was rumored to be heading to Oklahoma, was the 4th leading tackler for the Coogs last season while adding 1 INT.

Oklahoma: Skill positions usually get most of the attention, but for Oklahoma, it starts with Creed Humphrey. The Sooners are replacing 4 starters along their national award winning offensive line, so Humphrey will be the key piece to making it all work for Bill Bedenbaugh. Jalen Hurts is at the helm of the Oklahoma offense. After a full off-season debate as to whether or not Hurts has the capability to run a Lincoln Riley offense, his opportunity is finally here. He’ll be working with one of the nation’s best receivers in CeeDee Lamb, who went for 1158 yards and 11 TD’s last season. With him on the outside, it will be tough to stack the box against Oklahoma’s talented pair of backs that return over 2000 yards rushing.

Defensively, Oklahoma is going to lean on their front-7 not to just contain, but keep D’Eriq King from finding rhythm. That attack will be headlined by NT, Neville Gallimore who has really impressed those around the program this off-season. Joining him will be sophomore, Ronnie Perkins who led the team in sacks last season as true-freshman, and RS freshman, Jalen Redmond. Behind them, Kenneth Murray who looks like an other-worldly linebacker, looks to take that next step in a new defensive scheme. Tre Brown returns to headline a secondary that wants to make a statement after ranking 129th against the pass last season.

Facts & Stats:

  • Oklahoma ranked last against the pass last season while Houston ranked 14th in passing offense.
  • Houston was ranked 96th against the run last season and is replacing 2 of their leading tacklers as well as Ed Oliver.
  • Statistically, Jalen Hurts’ accuracy noticeably dipped in the 2nd quarter in his two seasons starting at Alabama. Lincoln Riley’s quarterbacks statistically improve in the 2nd quarter.
  • Houston gave up 6.1 YPC on 3rd and short last season, while Oklahoma rushed for 7.36 YPC on 3rd and short.
  • Dana Holgorsen called more passing plays on 1st down than any other down, as did Houston. Oklahoma gave up nearly 1000 more passing yards on 1st down than any other down last season.
  • Oklahoma’s defense was at their best against the run while in the redzone (2.76 ypc) while Houston’s rushing offense was at their worst inside the 20.
  • Oklahoma is 17-1 against un-ranked opponents under Lincoln Riley. Dana Holgorsen is 6-20 against ranked opponents as a HC.

Things To Consider:

  • Dana Holgorsen has never beaten Oklahoma while being a head coach.
  • There isn’t much film on how Oklahoma intends to use Jalen Hurts.
  • To see film on Alex Grinch’s defense, you have to go back to at least 2017, Dana Holgorsen acknowledged this challenge.
  • Oklahoma’s talent hasn’t been the biggest issue. With scheme and coaching improving, many players will finally be put in a spot to show their strengths.
  • Oklahoma is going to have the advantage in talent along both sides of the line.
  • The Sooners will be breaking in both a new kicker and punter.

Predictions:

Stephen’s Bold:

  • Oklahoma forces 3 turnovers
  • Jalen Hurts throws 200 yards, rushes for 100 yards
  • The defense scores the first touchdown of the season
  • Oklahoma wins by 28.

Kamiar’s Bold:

  • Jalen Hurts completes less than 65% of his passes
  • Trejan Bridges has the best game
  • Motley replaced mid-game
  • OU escapes in a narrow victory

Score:

On paper, I love the pass rush potential for Oklahoma. With Houston starting two new offensive tackles, the advantage on the edges belongs to the Sooners. If Oklahoma get home to King, or at the very least force him into Kenneth Murray or DeShaun White, it’s going to take the air out of the Houston offense. Pressure is key, but Grinch did some really nice things at Washington State to disguise coverage. Look for him to show a little bit of that to get King to second guess himself. Oklahoma should be able to run the ball up and down the field, but expect Lincoln to get the passing game going with Hurts early. I like Oklahoma taking an early lead, then focusing on time of possession with their ground game. Sooners 48 | Houston 24