Finally, entering their sixth game, the No. 12 Oklahoma Sooners have a chance to show whether they belong in the College Football Playoff conversation as they meet the No. 3 Texas Longhorns in Dallas.
The Longhorns passed their big early-season test, stopping then-No. 3 Alabama 34-24, and are they rolling into the schools’ final Red River Rivalry game as Big 12 members.
Both schools are leaving for the Southeastern Conference beginning next season.
Unbeaten and relatively untested, Oklahoma (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) seeks a reversal from last year’s meeting with Texas, a 49-0 Longhorns victory in which Sooners starting quarterback Dillon Gabriel did not play due to injury.
Gabriel is healthy and ready for Saturday, though, and Longhorns quarterback Quinn Ewers needs to stay sharp to give Texas (5-0, 2-0) a chance to cover the 6.5-point spread.
Is there betting value on underdog Oklahoma? The Sooners have improved week to week and appear primed for a big performance.
Or is there more value on the total?
We have news, trends and quotes — along with our game prediction with a best bet as well as a prop pick for good measure.
–Kickoff: Noon, ET
–Location: Cotton Bowl Stadium, Dallas
–Point Spread, Total: Texas -6.5, Total 60.5
This feels like a classic edition is coming, with the rewards for the quarterback who makes fewer mistakes.
Combined, these offenses have accounted for 27 touchdown passes with only three interceptions, clearing the way for the better defense to take the spotlight.
Gabriel, a senior, may find some big-game jitters. Ewers seemed to exorcise his demons against Alabama and should provide more stability.
Both defenses rank in the top 12 nationally in points allowed per game, in the top 10 in third-down defense, in the top 20 in turnover margin and in the top 30 in total defense.
Lost amid the offensive fireworks displayed by the Sooners is the fact they have held opponents to 11 points or fewer in three of their five games.
Oklahoma coach Brent Venables has turned the defense around, not unexpected given his previous work as Clemson’s defensive coordinator.
The Sooners should be able to dramatically slow the Texas ground game and show Ewers and the Longhorns plenty of elite schemes and looks.
Texas coach Steve Sarkisian, meanwhile, has a wealth of tools to employ. His in-game adjustments figure to be just enough to push his Longhorns to 6-0 with the national title very much in reach.
However, 6.5 points is a little too much in a neutral-site game, with attendance split on the 50-yard line.
The pick: Texas 31, Oklahoma 26
The bet: Under 60.5
Last season, Ewers threw for 289 yards and four touchdowns with one interception against Oklahoma.
He has been excellent this season, completing 66 percent of his passes for 1,358 yards, 10 touchdowns and one interception. Ewers also has run for five scores.
Gabriel has put up even better numbers, albeit against the likes of Arkansas State, SMU, Tulsa, Cincinnati and Iowa State. That said, Gabriel has hit on 75.2 percent of his passes for 1,593 yards.
No doubt, Gabriel has seen plenty of potential trouble watching Longhorns video this week.
“They’re very physical,” Gabriel said of the Longhorns’ defense. “They’ve been dominant in their first five games. Just have been playing really good football, so it’ll be a great challenge.”
Gabriel threw 25 TD passes last season, and he already has 15 touchdown tosses — with only two interceptions — this season. He has four rushing scores, which leads the Sooners.
THEY SAID IT
“Coach Venables, he’d been doing it too long at too high of a level to think they weren’t going to get that thing fixed. I told you last year that he would.”
–Texas coach Steve Sarkisian on Oklahoma coach Brent Venables’ defense.
According to Action Network numbers, Oklahoma tops the nation in stuff rate, sits third in defensive line yards and is 10th in expected points added per rush.
The Sooners are a perfect 5-0 against the spread, and they should show enough to slow the Longhorns’ attack, or at least create the need for adjustments during the first half.
Texas, meanwhile, has gathered momentum after its victory in Tuscaloosa, suffocating its next three opponents (Wyoming, 31-10; at Baylor, 38-6; Kansas, 40-14).
The Longhorns’ defense has set the tone early, too, holding its five opponents to first-half outputs of 3, 6, 7, 6 and 7 points.
The prop: Texas -2.5 for the full game, parlayed to the under 31.5 points in the first half (+130 at BetMGM)
–Field Level Media