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Oklahoma vs. Houston: Preview and Prediction

NCAA Football: Oklahoma at Iowa State

Here is everything you need to know about the Oklahoma Sooners’ season opener in our Oklahoma vs. Houston Preview.

Game info

6:30 p.m. Central Time, Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, Norman, Okla.

TV: ABC, Sean McDonough, Todd Blackledge, Holly Rowe

Radio: KOMA 1520 AM & KRXO 107.7 FM; FREE ONLINE: TuneIn.com; SIRIUS 81; XM 81

 

Key players

Houston

QB D’Eriq King. To some he’s the best quarterback among the teams in the Group of 5 conferences King set The American Athletic Conference’s record for touchdowns responsible for with 50 a year ago. King tossed 36 touchdowns through the air and added 14 rushing scores in 11 games. Among returning quarterbacks, only Alabama’s Tua Tagavailoa passed for more touchdowns (50) than King in 2018. Oh, and did I mention that King did all that even though he MISSED two games last season?

WR Marquez Stevenson. It’s best to know where the junior is at all times. He’s coming off a 1,019-yard season as a receiver in 2018. He has six catches of 50-plus yards and 12 plays of at least 30 yards, which ranked sixth and 11th in the nation, respectively. He led The American with five games of at least 100 receiving yards. He was fifth in the AAC with 78.4 receiving yards per game and third with 5.8 receptions per game.

DL Isaiah Chambers. Houston is making a lot of changes defensively this season, but the return of Chambers is a big deal. He suffered a season-ending injury in the fifth game of 2018, and despite that his 4.5 sacks was second for Houston and No. 14 in the AAC. If the Cougars are going to get to the quarterback this season, Chambers must lead the charge. 

Oklahoma

QB Jalen Hurts. It’s possible you’ve heard of this guy? The former Alabama quarterback, who led the Crimson Tide to a national title, inherits the job that has minted the last two Heisman winners — Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray. From Channelview, Texas, Hurts owns the Alabama quarterback career record with 23 rushing touchdowns and ranks second in school history with 1,976 career rushing yards and 71 touchdowns responsible for. He amassed 7,602 yards of total offense and threw for 48 touchdowns, both good for third place in Alabama history. Even though Hurts has been in Norman for just a few months, he’s the most experienced quarterback in the Big 12. 

WR Cee Dee Lamb. The Richmond, Texas, product is well on his way to the NFL, perhaps as early as 2020 if he chooses to leave early. In two seasons in Norman he has 111 catches for 1,965 yards and 18 touchdowns. Those 18 touchdowns are already rank No. 10 in OU history. with eight more, he becomes a Top 3 receiver in that category. Lamb caught 65 passes for 1,158 yards, the sixth-highest yardage total in single-season OU history. He caught at least one touchdown pass in seven consecutive games and finished with a team-high 11 TD grabs.

LB Kenneth Murray: If OU’s defense gets better in 2019 it will be in large part due to Murray, who enters his third season as a starter with 233 career tackles, 5.5 career sacks and 28 starts. Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, last of Ohio State, is working to craft a defense that takes advantage of Murray’s best qualities. Another huge season from the junior could allow him to leave early for the NFL. 

CB Parnell Motley: With the season-ending injury to Tre Norwood, the onus falls on Motley to have an even bigger season as he enters his fourth season in Norman. Motley had a solid season in 2018, managing a second-straight season with 63 tackles. He also has three interceptions and 11 pass break-ups in 2018, both career highs. An even bigger season from Motley improves his stock with NFL teams.  

 

Key storylines

Houston

If you’re wondering where Dana Holgorsen disappeared to, look no further. The former West Virginia head coach took the Houston job in January and got a pay raise out of it. He inherits one of the most talented offenses among teams in the Group of 5 conferences and is overseeing a new scheme on defense. In the long term of this season, the Cougars are American Athletic Conference contenders and his quarterback, King, is an All-American candidate. But in the immediate term, Holgorsen is 2-7-1 against teams ranked No. 4 in the AP poll (OU is No. 4 in the preseason poll). Plus, Holgorsen never beat OU when he was at West Virginia (0-7)

Oklahoma

New year, same Oklahoma. National title contender. Stratospheric preseason ranking. Top-shelf talent all over the field. And now the Sooners are taking in high-level transfers like Hurts. Lincoln Riley’s third season at the helm is shaping up as his first two. But Riley had to do SOMETHING to turn around his defense, which was quite porous as the season went on in 2018. So the addition of Grinch is perhaps one of the most important hires of any college football team. His work on Oklahoma’s defense in 2019 may be the difference between whether the Sooners can get into the College Football Playoff and more importantly, if the Sooners can get past the CFP semifinals for the first time. 

Prediction

Oklahoma 45, Houston 44. The last time these two teams met Houston upset the Sooners in Houston two years ago. The last time they met in Norman the Sooners won, 63-13. That was back in 2004. The Cougars are probably as good as they were on offense two years ago, but probably have some adjustments to make on defense. With the Sooners breaking in a new defensive coordinator this smells like a good old-fashioned opening weekend shootout, with the Sooners winning on the game’s final drive.

 

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