Houston vs. Oklahoma NCAAF preview and pick

Robert Criscola

August 31st, 2019

+23 (-110)
O 80 (-110)
-23 (-110)
U 80 (-110)

Play: Oklahoma -23

The Houston Cougars will try to fight fire with fire, as their electrifying offense, led by quarterback D’Eriq King, squares off with Alabama transfer Jalen Hurts and the Oklahoma Sooners in Norman on Sunday, September 1. Oklahoma’s defense left plenty to be desired in 2018, but it should prove superior to Houston’s stoppers here.

Hurts is ready for the big stage

Hurts will attempt to follow in the footsteps of Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield under head coach Lincoln Riley’s tutelage. He excelled in 2018 as Tua Tagovailoa’s understudy, albeit in limited opportunities. In 2017 Hurts averaged more than 8.2 yards per completion and tossed 17 touchdown passes with just one interception. He was 26-2 as a starter in Tuscaloosa.
The Houston native has several elite weapons around him, including wideout CeeDee Lamb, a second-team All-Big 12 selection in 2018, and tight end Grant Calcaterra, a first-team All-Big 12 pick. Oklahoma's tailback tandem, Trey Sermon and Kennedy Brooks, rushed for more than 2,000 yards and 25 touchdowns last year.

The pair should run roughshod over a Cougars defense that set a school record for futility last season (6,454 yards allowed). What few reliable defensive contributors Houston had in 2018, namely All-American defensive tackle Ed Oliver and linebackers Austin Robinson and Roman Brown, have departed.

Oklahoma's defense has nowhere to go but up

There is hope for improvement for the Sooners’ defense in 2019, in part because there is nowhere to go but up. Oklahoma was last in the nation in passing defense a year ago. Ohio State defensive coordinator Alex Grinch was brought in to turn things around. He faces a tough assignment with King, who accounted for an AAC record 50 TDs even though he missed the final two games of the season. The Sooners will give up their fair share of points, but it won’t matter when Hurts and company are marching down the field at will when they have the ball.

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