All he had to do was fill the shoes of a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback who was the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. Kyler Murray already has done that, and he’ll do even more if he can beat Texas by more than a touchdown.
The 5-foot-11-inch Murray represents a big part of what it takes to win big in college football — an explosive offense operated by a dual-threat quarterback. Murray is putting up numbers comparable to his accomplished predecessor, Baker Mayfield.
Oklahoma (5-0) is what the betting public loves in a favorite. The Sooners are scoring 48.6 points per game behind Murray and big-play threats Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and CeeDee Lamb, a couple of wide receivers who would immediately improve the Indianapolis Colts. Murray has passed for 1,460 yards and 17 touchdowns while rushing for 285 yards and four more scores. Mayfield is not really missed.
Mayfield never beat the Longhorns by eight points or more, which is what oddsmakers are asking of Murray and the Sooners in today’s Red River rivalry in Dallas. Oklahoma is a 7½-point favorite in what should be a strong two-way action game. These teams’ past four meetings were decided by five, five, seven and five points, with the Sooners winning three times and each time by five points.
Tom Herman is loved by ‘dog bettors. He’s not that good laying points and forget about beating Maryland, but Herman is money if he’s getting points — 11-1 against the spread, with eight outright wins, as an underdog as the coach at Texas and Houston.
The Longhorns have the better defense, allowing 19.8 points per game, and a steady quarterback in Sam Ehlinger. It’s not always pretty with Ehlinger, yet he has completed 64.7 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns and two interceptions. Texas followed impressive victories over Southern California and Texas Christian with an ugly 19-14 win at Kansas State.
Oklahoma has more offensive firepower and a quarterback with star power, but its defense has issues. The Sooners rank 90th in total defense, allowing 405 yards per game, and their red-zone defense (16 trips resulting in 13 touchdowns and three field goals) is about as bad as it gets. That defense struggled to get off the field in narrow victories over Army and Iowa State.
A season-ending injury to running back Rodney Anderson will hurt Oklahoma in the long run. Anderson was one of the nation’s toughest runners and he will be missed. This is the Sooners’ first serious test away from home. I’ll take 7½ points with the Longhorns’ better defense and the coach who’s as good as it gets in the underdog role.
Seven more plays for Saturday:
* FLORIDA (plus-2½) over Louisiana State:
The Tigers were tagged with a win total of 7 to 7½ this summer and were ranked 25th in the preseason. Ed Orgeron is off the hot seat with LSU at 5-0 and ranked No. 5. Orgeron’s signature wins, against Miami and Auburn, were in the underdog role away from home. Now the Tigers are favored in Gainesville. Ohio State transfer Joe Burrow has been a hot-and-cold quarterback, completing only 53.4 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and no interceptions. He has made some of his best throws in the biggest spots and will need to do that again this week against a Florida defense that just held Mississippi State to 202 total yards in Starkville. The Gators’ loss to Kentucky on Sept. 8 no longer looks so bad. Florida’s Feleipe Franks (57.1 percent completions, 12 touchdowns, three interceptions) is starting to inspire more trust in Dan Mullen’s balanced offense. Expect a nail-biting finish in “The Swamp.”
* Indiana (plus-26½) over OHIO STATE:
A fully-focused Buckeyes team would cover this number, but this is a classic flat spot for Ohio State after its season-saving 27-26 comeback win at Penn State. With all of the dramatics surrounding Urban Meyer the past two months, expect the Buckeyes to be emotionally drained. The Hoosiers, who have covered six of the past seven in this series, are catching the Buckeyes at the right time. Indiana’s Tom Allen has a sharp defensive mind and is an underrated coach in the Big Ten.
* Other plays: New Mexico (plus-9) over UNLV; MINNESOTA (plus-7) over Iowa; Florida State (plus-14) over MIAMI; Colorado State (-2½) over SAN JOSE STATE; HAWAII (-3) over Wyoming.
Last week: 3-4 against the spread