Brent Venables’ first year in Norman, Oklahoma, was about as bad as it gets. A loss to Florida State in the Cheez-It Bowl capped a 6-7 season, leaving the Sooners faithful shell-shocked. Now that the transition year is behind them and a move to the SEC is on the horizon, this season proves that they can become a top program again.
If week 1 taught us anything, it’s that Venables won’t take his foot off the accelerator. Oklahoma started the season by throttling Arkansas State 73-0. QB Dillion Gabriel completed 19 of 22 passes for 308 yards, but everyone knows it’s the defense that will be the barometer of Venables’ progress. I don’t know how much we can learn from the first game, but Oklahoma held the Red Wolves to 2.1 yards per rush, a 15% conversion rate on third/fourth downs, and 208 total yards.
This is the week we find out. The Sooners host SMU as -15.5-point favorites. SMU QB Preston Stone invades Norman with a potent passing attack that ranked seventh in all of college football in 2022. Stone threw for 348 yards and 3 touchdowns in his debut as a starter last week, propelling the Mustangs to a comfortable 38-14. win over Louisiana Tech. Is the Sooners defense a solid bet to slow down SMU and cover the spread? This is why I’m betting the underdog will keep this one close.
This looks more like a Lincoln Riley line than one I would expect from a team that went 5-8 ATS last season. I understand we’re turning the page on last season, but it’s hard to ignore Oklahoma losing a pair of home games (Kansas State, Baylor) as the betting favorites. I’m betting Oklahoma will get over 9.5 wins, but it’s hard for me to justify that number without seeing the Sooners against better competition.
Oklahoma’s defense will be tested in a big way on Saturday. SMU’s aerial attack will aggressively go after Oklahoma’s secondary, which has allowed over 400 passing yards in the final two games of 2022. Oklahoma had one of the worst defenses in the Big 12, allowing its conference opponents to score at least 38 points in six different games. games. Improvement is certainly on the table, but slowing down this Mustangs offense would be a drastic leap.
A key factor for the live betting audience will be the Sooners’ defensive success on third downs. Venables’ defense couldn’t get anyone off the field last year. Opponents extended drives on 40.9% of third downs (87th overall). That will be a solid early indicator if the Sooner defense is up to the challenge.
Any time I see a big underdog with a lot of scoring potential, it will catch my attention. Add in the fact that they’re facing an unproven defense coming off a season where they fell off a cliff, and I’m going to get involved. SMU has the vertical speed to spread out from the Sooners, which opens cutback lanes for RB LJ Johnson Jr. to destroy the defense. The Mustangs’ leading rusher had 128 yards on 9.1 yards per carry last week.
Now that Stone has made his starting debut, expect him to be even more decisive and aggressive as the Mustangs eye the upset. In a game that means a lot for both programs, there is backdoor potential if Oklahoma holds a commanding lead in the second half. The Sooners’ ability to score isn’t in question. The total of 68.5 projects an estimated implied score of 42-26. I don’t think this gives SMU’s offense enough credit, and I expect Oklahoma will need to score at least 49 points to cover this large point spread. My bet is that this is one of those wild back-and-forth games where each side trades touchdowns until one runs out of time. I will leverage its value and keep SMU competitive. Bet: SMU +15.5