No. 3 Oklahoma (11-2) at No. 15 Houston (13-1) in NRG Stadium, 11:00 a.m.(ABC)
Line: Oklahoma by 10½.
Series Record: Oklahoma leads 2-0.
What’s on the line:
A whole lot…at least for Houston. If head coach Tom Herman can push this elite mid-major team past one of Oklahoma’s best teams in years, they’d take one step closer to being the first team outside of the Power Five conferences to participate in the College Football Playoff. A win would really benefit the American Athletic Conference and cripple the Big 12 for the season as well. Oklahoma expects to be in the College Football Playoff just like last season and a loss Saturday could really hamper their possibilities, although there would be plenty of opportunities to build their resumé throughout the season.
What could go wrong for the Sooners:
Not much, this Sooner squad is stacked this season. But if something goes wrong it would happen in the battle of Oklahoma’s linebackers vs. Houston’s star QB Greg Ward Jr.
Why would a linebacking core have a challenging time against a quarterback?
Well, normally they wouldn’t. They’d ideally worry about the running back, and maybe a wide receiver slashing through the middle of the field. But Ward’s 1,108 yards rushing for 21 touchdowns last season surely does raise a few red flags. Not to mention, Oklahoma is depending on some new starters, specifically Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and Tay Evans. Their maturity and readiness will undoubtedly be tested.
Players to watch:
Oklahoma: QB Baker Mayfield may be the most impactful player in all of college football this season. The redshirt junior threw for 3,700 yards and 36 touchdowns while also running for seven touchdowns last season. He was also a Heisman candidate, finishing fourth.
Houston: LB Steven Taylor. Really wanted to mention Greg Ward again but Houston’s number one test will be against Oklahoma’s running game. That burden will primarily fall on Taylor’s back. He’s quick and he’s all over the field. Last season he had 92 tackles, 10 sacks, and two interceptions.
A few facts:
- This is Houston’s highest preseason ranking since 1991.
- Oklahoma is the highest ranked team they’ve faced to start a season.
- The Cougars are the highest ranked opening opponent for Oklahoma since 1986. (No. 4 UCLA)
- Houston has won five straight games against Power Five opponents.
- Oklahoma probably has the best running back duo in the country in Samaje Perine (1,349 yards last season) and Joe Mixon (753).
- Houston was plus-21 in turnover margin last year, second-best in the country. Oklahoma was plus-9.