College Football Pick
It may not look like a big Game, based on the schools involved, but Oklahoma vs. Houston is a top-15 matchup according to the polls. Houston finished 11-2 last year and took down Florida State by two touchdowns in the Peach Bowl. The Cougars won’t be an easy matchup, even with the Sooners again projected to make the College Football Playoff. Still, Oklahoma is a -10.5 point favorite at 5Dimes Sportsbook for a neutral-site Game at NRG Stadium, home of the Houston Texans.
Expect fireworks in this Game, there’s no way around it. Oklahoma scored 43.5 points per Game a year ago and bring back most of their relevant studs including Heisman-hopeful quarterback Baker Mayfield, who finished with 43 total TDs and just seven interceptions. Not only that, but top running backs also return with Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon, who could easily be considered the best backfield in the country. Receiver may be a bigger question for Mayfield this season, but Dede Westbrook returns and Geno Lewis, a transfer from Penn State, could be a factor.
Not to be outdone, Houston also boasts a top offense after scoring 40.4 points per Game in 2015. Sure, the Cougars had an easier Schedule playing in the AAC, but they scored plenty in wins over Louisville and Florida State. The reason they’ll keep this Game close is quarterback Greg Ward Jr. While Mayfield is more effective through the air, Ward is a better runner, rushing for 1,108 yards and 21 TDs in addition to 17 TDs and 6 INTs through the air last year.
But the biggest issue for Houston in this Game may be along the line where only two full-time starters return with a few underclassmen expected to be in the mix. That’s a problem because Oklahoma is no slouch on the defensive side, either, holding teams to 22 points per Game last season, best in the Big 12. Sure, they have some new faces, but this is Oklahoma and they have plenty of talent.
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The best way for Houston to cover this Game is with Ward. If he can’t find room in the running Game, it’ll be tough for the Cougars to keep up. The one way to beat the Sooners is with a mobile quarterback, something mediocre Texas did last year when Jerrod Heard rushed for 115 yards.
It’ll also be interesting to see if Houston’s defense can keep up with Mayfield and company. The Cougars were great last year, allowing 20.7 points per Game, but more importantly holding the Seminoles to 24 points. With only five returning starters, that could be an issue against maybe the most potent offense in the country.
With this being in Houston, there is a small home-field advantage to the Cougars, although there will be plenty of OU fans there. And while the Sooners were great last year, it’s not like they blew out good teams every week. against better competition, the Games were usually close, and they also lost by 20 points to Clemson in the CFP.
Houston will want to show everyone that they can compete on the national level, proving the win over Florida State wasn’t a fluke. With Ward seemingly the forgotten quarterback of the moment, don’t count out the Cougars from putting up a fight in this huge Game to start the season.
Our Pick – This is another one of those Games where we like to take a good look at the underdog not only for the Game, but for the 1st quarter and 1st half. When you get a bunch of talented kids, sky high for this 1st Game of the season on such a national stage, it presents some value with an underdog getting significant points.
Houston + fr the 1st quarter
Houston +for the 1st half