The AP’s #7 ranked Oklahoma Sooners open their 2017 season at home against the visiting UTEP Miners. With longtime coach Bob Stoops stepping down, a new era begins under coach Lincoln Riley. Game time starts at 3:30 P.M. ET at Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma.
The University of Texas El Paso comes into 2017 like many other teams that struggled last year. They look to turn some of their misfortunes around and hopefully get a few lucky breaks, which would result in a bowl appearance. After finishing 4-8 last season, a two win improvement could see the Miners going bowling at the end of this season. But, those wins will have to come later on because they’re severely outmatched against Oklahoma.
Although they are ranked #7 in the Nation, Oklahoma does have some holes to fill after the departures of Joe Mixon, Samaje Perine and Dede Westrbook. Fortunately for the Sooners, they have a glorified scrimmage against the Miners to really hash out the depth chart at their skilled positions before a huge matchup against Ohio State the following week.
It’s no surprise that the lines are huge for this game. The spread opened up at -46 for Oklahoma before settling in at -44. The Over/Under has remained consistent at 62.5 points.
This game is going to get ugly real quick. Oklahoma had one of the top offenses in the Nation last year: 3rd in scoring, 1st in pass efficiency and 2nd in total offensive yards. Despite the loss of offensive talent to the NFL, they are still led by Baker Mayfield who is poised for another massive season. Mayfield finished the 2016 season just under 4,000 passing yards and 46 combined touchdowns compared to just 8 interceptions.
Oklahoma will need for one of its unproven running backs to step up this year with the loss of Mixon and Perine. Fortunately, they’re playing against a UTEP defense that gave up over 200 YPG on the ground last year. The number crept up to 225 YPG when on the road. In fact, they gave up over 450 total YPG on the road in 2016, which doesn’t bode well for them this week in Norman. Additionally, the UTEP defense had a terrible pass rush that produced the paltry number of 14 sacks and only 46 tackles for loss on the season.
The total of 62 seems high considering the Under is 5-0 in Oklahoma’s last 5 games. However, the disparity in talent between these two teams is great. UTEP will most likely end up in the Conference USA basement and lack the playmakers on both sides of the ball to keep up with Oklahoma. Expect the Sooner backups to get plenty of playing time, which will lead to more points and aggressive play late in the game. Stoops won his first game 49-0 in 1999 and we expect Riley to easily eclipse that mark in this game. In fact, there’s a good chance that Oklahoma covers the point total without any help from the Miners.