Because the league lacks great defenses – or even good defenses – not every college football pundit thinks that Oklahoma should go to the College Football Playoff in January, even if the Sooners win the Big 12 Championship Game this Saturday at AT&T Stadium.
But no real fan can refute that the match-up at Jerry World is a potential classic in the making.
A re-match of Texas’ upset win over Oklahoma earlier this season, the game will give the legendary old foes a chance to settle unfinished business…with the winner taking the league crown.
Thanks to some early line movement in OU’s direction, MyBookie is giving the Texas Longhorns (+8) points to go with a moneyline of (+260) for UT next to a (-320) ML for Oklahoma.
Do these newest odds produce a handy bet on Texas to cover? Let us take a closer look at how the teams got to the title scrum.
Heisman-hopeful Kyler Murray has put on a clinic this season and amazed fans with another dose of high-flying Sooner offense in last weekend’s shoot-out win over West Virginia.
— Sooner Gridiron (@soonergridiron) November 24, 2018
Murray ranks 2nd in the nation in passing competence, completing 70.6% of his passes for 3,674 yards, 37 touchdowns and just 7 interceptions. The electric dual-threat quarterback has been dangerous with his legs, and could finish the season with 1000+ yards and several epic TD carries from long range.
However, he must learn how to clutch the ball tighter in the breadbasket.
Frosh RB Kennedy Brooks is also working on a 4-digit rushing season. Junior wide receiver Marquise Brown has been one of the most dangerous deep threats in the country, ranking 8th nationally with 1,264 receiving yards.
But offense is not everything. If the Sooners want to steer clear of 4th-quarter drama while securing a playoff bid, they will need their defense to have its best outing of the year. The unit has been pedestrian against average teams and nearly a sieve against superior ones. The Okies even gave up 350+ rushing yards against Kansas in an uneasy 55-40 win on November 17th.
In the meantime, Texas fans have been waiting years for a season like 2018. A win against the Sooners in Jerry World on Saturday afternoon would give the Longhorns their first Big 12 title in almost a decade, a 10-win season, and a berth to their first New Year’s Six bowl game.
Just as significantly to the UT faithful, it would make Tom Herman’s team 2-0 against OU this season.
Sophomore signal-caller Sam Ehlinger has been exceptional, passing for 23 touchdowns against just 4 interceptions and adding a team-leading 11 rushing touchdowns. But Ehlinger might have to fight to overcome an injury on Saturday. His shoulder seemed to be bothering him in a recent 24-17 win over KU.
Junior WR Lil’Jordan Humphrey has been one of the Big 12’s best players this season, tallying 72 catches for 1,058 yards and 8 touchdowns. If Ehlinger gets his touch back and is not weather-beaten by sacks, he could possibly keep up with Murray and help move the sticks on running plays.
Tom Herman likely will not want his QB taking too many chances early. Coaches tend to ignore the plot when a team needs to go all-out on every possession, thinking that their defense can stop anybody.
“I put trust in our defense” is an awfully popular slogan for losing Big 12 coaches in post-game pressers.
Texas did stop OU – at least enough to win – on October 6th. However, the 48-45 upset victory could mostly be attributed to a well-balanced offense and a huge day from Humphrey, who caught 9 passes for 133 yards and went 2 for 2 with a TD as a passer.
Senior defensive lineman Charles Omenihu leads the team with 8.5 sacks. It is apparent by now that no ordinary Big 12 defense (and Texas is regrettably not a defensive stalwart despite being ranked #14) can stop Murray or his supporting cast without a constant, efficient rush off the edge.
The combination of OU’s blue-collar defense and a widened line on the Longhorns may cue a lot of bettors to lay their money down on Texas to cover. And UT very well could cover.
But there is a single thought keeps running through my mind – that there is simply no way Oklahoma is going to lose this contest whether the winning margin is 1 point, 10 points, or 100 points.
OU already had a quality offense when the Sooners played and lost to UT in the Red River Showdown. But that was then. Murray and the Oklahoma attack is now a relentless beast for anyone outside of a few SEC, ACC or Big Ten defenses, and last I checked, Texas is still in the Big 12.
The favorites are most likely to score so many points and control the ball so well that even if Texas is nearly perfect on offense, it still will not be enough. You can match them on the scoreboard for a while, as West Virginia did…but OU’s running and passing games are so superior that the game-control advantage will lodge inside Herman’s head by the 2nd quarter and cause UT’s play-calling to get wild and risky.
When that happens, Oklahoma should force enough turnovers and negative plays to create a lead by the 4th quarter. And even if Texas recovers at that point, expect Murray to lay his foot down on the gas pedal.
Bet on the moneyline favorites from Oklahoma.
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.