Game day greetings, Sooner Nation! In the only game on the slate tonight, the fourth-ranked Oklahoma Sooners begin the hunt for a fifth straight Big 12 title at home against the Houston Cougars. Making his debut on the sideline for Houston will be ex-West Virginia head coach and Red Bull aficionado Dana Holgorsen, while his team on the field will be led by prolific dual-threat quarterback D’Eriq King. Lincoln Riley’s first-year defensive coordinator Alex Grinch will have his work cut out for him in his inaugural game on the Oklahoma staff against a high-powered Houston attack.
Head on down to the comments section for the game thread, where we’ll be asking questions, making predictions and discussing the day’s action with y’all.
TV: Sunday, ABC 6:30 P.M. CT
Live Stream: WatchESPN
TV Commentary: Sean McDonough, Todd Blackledge, Holly Rowe
In case you missed it, here’s this regular season’s first episode of Oklahoma Breakdown with Scott & Holman Pawdcast. (Fair warning: As usual, this week’s podcast has some NSFW language.)
King passed for 2,982 yards and 36 touchdowns and added another 674 yards and 14 scores on the ground before a meniscus tear brought his 2018 season to an end. Expected to have fully recovered and ready to retake the helm as the Cougars’ signal caller, his dynamic skill set could spark Holgorsen to work wonders in the American Athletic Conference this season. He gets to test things out against a familiar foe in Norman, Okla., on opening night.
It’ll be a tough test to start the season on the other side for Grinch and his “Speed D”, but it will also show the nation where things stand with the embattled, yet somewhat promising group he’s inherited at Oklahoma. Without a future No. 1 pick at QB or an experienced offensive line to make up for the frequent defensive shortcomings of the last few seasons, this edition of the Sooner defense can hopefully make a marginal-to-solid improvement in 2019, which could begin with a potential watershed moment by stifling the high-octane Cougars offense this evening.
Luckily for Oklahoma, Dana Holgorsen also inherited an equally bad defense to counteract his productive offense in Houston. Ranking near the bottom of the nation in a host of defensive categories last season (something Oklahoma fans unfortunately also know a thing about), luckily, there is no Ed Oliver on the Cougars for Lincoln Riley to worry about this time. This should give OU’s four new offensive line starters and graduate-transfer quarterback Jalen Hurts enough time and chances through the game to find their footing as the season gets underway.
Fans and experts alike know Hurts is built differently in both body and skill set than his Sooner predecessors and Heisman winners Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, but he nonetheless brings with him his athleticism, experience and record of 26-2 as a starter at Alabama to Norman. Something tells me he may end up being the difference in a close game or two down the stretch this season once he acclimates to Riley’s adaptive scheme. It may take a little time, but if there’s an offensive coach in the nation who could unlock something truly special in Hurts, it doesn’t take an expert to know it’s Riley.
Though the Cougars offense will keep up with OU through most of today’s season opener, the Sooners will eventually find a flow on both sides of the ball and take control in the second half. Although I don’t see it being enough to cover the spread, Oklahoma pulls away for a solid home win to open the 2019 season.
OU 48, UH 31
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