Ladies and gentlemen, we made it. College football has returned, and the Oklahoma Sooners will finally begin their season this Sunday vs the Houston Cougars in Norman at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
This will be just the 4th all-time meeting between Oklahoma and Houston, with the Sooners taking two of the first three. Houston has the most recent victory, though, with their upset win over Baker Mayfield and the #5 ranked Sooners in 2016.
There are plenty of storylines coming into this game to get excited about: the revenge factor for Oklahoma, Dana Holgorsen going against the Sooners with his new squad, and the history of the two quarterbacks in Houston’s D’Eriq King and Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts.
The Cougars are coming off a bit of a down year for a pretty solid program, going just 8-5 last year under Major Applewhite. However, enthusiasm is on the rise due to one of the more surprising splash moves of the offseason, luring Dana Holgorsen away from West Virginia to be their new head man.
Houston undoubtedly has talent on this team, starting with their electrifying quarterback D’Eriq King.
“He’s one of the best quarterbacks in the country,” Lincoln Riley said Monday.
But what about the rest of the team? Here are five key players from Houston that could cause problems for Oklahoma on Sunday:
OL Josh Jones
Simply put, offensive lineman Josh Jones is a monster.
The senior stands at 6’7” and 310 pounds. He is a behemoth.
Oklahoma’s defensive line could very well be improved, but it is still a mostly unproven bunch. Lincoln Riley said he is extremely excited to see them go to work, but getting through Josh Jones is going to be quite challenging.
Jones started all thirteen games for the Cougars last year and will certainly anchor their 0-line this season. D’Eriq King is already a superb athlete, if Jones is dominating his man and giving King lots of extra time…the star quarterback could have a field day picking apart a secondary that has really struggled in the previous few seasons. Not to mention King’s great running ability that he could put to good use as well.
S Gleson Sprewell
Gleson Sprewell is the top returning defensive playmaker on the Houston Cougars.
In 2018, Sprewell was third on the team in tackles with 81 total and 51 solo. He then led the team in interceptions (3) including a pick six and picked up a fumble recovery that he also took to the house.
One of their best tacklers, had two defensive touchdowns a year ago, and just an overall good player.
Oklahoma will have to avoid Sprewell making a big play as best they can. Nothing gives an underdog team life like a big turnover or even a defensive touchdown.
Keeping Sprewell from making a big momentum-shifting play, especially early in the game, is an important thing for the Sooners to keep the Cougars from getting a serious belief they can pull the upset.
WR Marquez Stevenson
Marquez Stevenson is probably one of the most underrated receivers in the country.
Last year, Stevenson caught 75 passes for 1019 yards and 9 touchdowns. He is a legit athlete that could give the Oklahoma secondary some serious problems.
The secondary has been maybe the weakest single unit of the team under Lincoln Riley and it took a hit a couple weeks ago when Tre Norwood went down for the season. Stevenson could run wild either against Tre Brown, Parnell Motley, or even potentially Brendan Radley-Hiles.
If Alex Grinch’s defense wants to have a successful first outing, limiting Stevenson’s production would certainly be a good start.
LB Leroy Godfrey
Leroy Godfrey is the most seasoned returning Cougar defensive player on a team that is having to replace eight defensive starters from a year ago, having made 19 career starts.
Godfrey’s 2018 season was really just slightly above average in the grand scheme of things, just being 10th on the team and tackles and not forcing any turnovers. But, as the only returning linebacker, there is a lot of pressure on him to step up his play this year.
Oklahoma’s offense likely isn’t going to have many problems scoring points in this game, but keeping Godfrey from making plays and gaining confidence could effectively neutralize the entire linebacking crew.
RB Patrick Carr
Patrick Carr is a really solid running back for the Cougars.
Last year, Carr was the leading rusher on the team running for 868 yards and 5 touchdowns, averaging 5.7 yards per carry. He is a solid player who has been steadily improving, and he has a chance to make a run at being a 1,000 yard rusher this season.
Even though the Oklahoma defense has been really terrible the last couple seasons, one aspect that has usually been at least serviceable, was keeping good running backs mostly under wraps.
In last year’s season opener, Florida Atlantic’s Devin Singletary ran for just 69 yards on 18 carries. Grinch and Oklahoma will be looking for similar success in this year’s opener against Carr, leaving them just to worry about King’s legs being the main rushing attack for Houston.
Houston has talented players and they have a good coach in Holgorsen that has seen Oklahoma many times before, albeit with little to no success, having never picked up a win as a head coach over the Sooners.
King will likely give Oklahoma some struggles but it doesn’t feel like Houston will have enough to ever make Oklahoma seriously sweat this game.
It’s the season opener, a Sunday night in primetime, a whiteout, and Jalen Hurts’s first game…it feels set up to be an electric atmosphere and will likely get Oklahoma’s 2019 campaign off to a good start.
Last season, Florida Atlantic was billed very similar to how Houston is now. Not top of the line, but a good team with a good coach that could be sneaky and give Oklahoma a run for their money.
Oklahoma responded by bludgeoning the Owls 63-14. It probably won’t be that extreme again, but the Sooners should be able to settle into this one and not ever have to seriously worry.
Oklahoma 48, Houston 24
The game kicks off at 6:30 this Sunday, September 1st at Gaylord Family- Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman on ABC.