Oklahoma Sooners (11-2) at Houston Cougars (13-1)
|Date & Time||Saturday September 3, 2016, 12:00 PM (EDT)|
The Line: Houston Cougars +10 -- Over/Under: 68
ABC; ESPN 3
The 3rd ranked Oklahoma Sooners will travel to NRG Stadium to take on the 15th ranked Houston Cougars on Saturday, September 3rd, in College Football action.
The 3rd ranked Oklahoma Sooners come into the season as not only the favorite to win the Big-12 but as one of the favorites to be holding the National Championship Trophy at the end of the season. Oklahoma had a solid 2015 campaign which included a 11-2 overall record (8-1 Big-12 Conference) however, did end their season with a tough 37-17 lost to the Clemson Tigers at the Orange Bowl in the semi-finals of the BCS Championship. Head Coach Bob Stoops has plenty to be excited for on the offensive end this season as the Sooners return two of the best offensive players in the country in QB Baker Mayfield (68% comp %, 284.6 passing yds/game, 36 TD, 7 INT; 31.15 rushing yds/game, 7 TD) and RB Samaje Perine (103.77 rushing yds/game, 16 TD; 4 rec TD). Oklahoma will look to do a better job protecting their Heisman Candidate QB as Mayfield did hit often last season, getting sacked 41 times. Mayfield no longer has WR Sterling Shepard who will now be playing on Sundays and will look for WR Dede Westbrook and TE Mark Andrews to contribute more. Defensively, Oklahoma held their opponents to an average of 22.0 ppg which ranked T-28th in the country in 2015. Oklahoma did lose their defensive leader in Eric Striker however, still has one of the better defenses in the country and is led by the strong defensive backfield duo of Ahmad Thomas (75 tackles; 3 INT) and Steven Parker (60 tackles).
The 15th ranked Houston Cougars had one of the best seasons in school history last season as they finished the year with a 13-1 overall record that included a AAC Championship and a convincing 38-24 victory over the Florida State Seminoles in the Peach Bowl. Offensively, Houston will be returning one of the best duel-threat QB’s in all of the country in Greg Ward Jr who finished the season averaging 202.0 passing yds/game while throwing for 17 TD and 6 INT to go along with averaging 79.14 rushing yds/game and 21 rushing TD’s. Houston lost leading WR Demarcus Ayers who went off to the NFL but still has Chase Allen (4.0 rec/game; 87.3 yds/game; 6 TD) and Steven Dunbar (2.4 rec/game; 29.4 yds/game; 3 TD). The Cougars will have to find some answers at the RB position as they lost their top two running backs and will hope the offensive line can offer Ward enough protecting as they are returning just 1 starter. When most people think of Houston, they think of Greg Ward Jr, however, the strength of the Cougars will be their defense which was outstanding last season holding opponents to an average of just 20.7 ppg (ranked 20th) and 383.6 total yards/game (ranked 53rd). Houston’s defense will be led by LB Steven Taylor who finished last season with 92 tackles and 10 sacks. The Cougars will continue to look to make the big plays on defense as they led the nation last season with 35 takeaways.
The Sooners are 7-1 ATS in their last 8 games in September however, are 0-4 ATS in their last 4 neutral site games. The Cougars are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 non-conference games and 9-4 ATS in their last 13 games overall.
This is going to be one of the best games to kick off College Football action this season and is must watch as it will have two of the best QB’s in the game going against each other. Oklahoma is going to be one of the best teams this year however, I think the Cougars defensive is outstanding and should be able create enough pressure on Mayfield to give him some trouble. Although I’m a bit worried about the Cougars situation at RB, which will allow the Sooners to be able to focus entirely on Greg Ward Jr., I think Houston will do enough in front of basically a home crowd to keep this one within the points. Take Houston to cover.