UTEP Miners (0-1) vs. Oklahoma Sooners (0-0)
The Oklahoma Sooners start their campaign to return to the national championship playoffs when they take on the UTEP Miners on Saturday. Oklahoma is coming off an 11-2 season that saw the team go 7-0 at home. UTEP is coming off a 7-6 season, but already dropped their first game of the year when they lost to North Texas last Saturday, 31-13.
Not surprisingly, the Sooners enter as prohibitive favorites at -31.0. The total is set at 57.0. These clubs last met in 2017 when Oklahoma defeated the Miners, 56-7. They have met twice in the last 10 years, with Oklahoma winning both games.
UTEP Stumbles in Second HalfThe Miners found themselves trailing by just one entering the half, but North Texas dominated following the break, scoring 17 unanswered points on their way to a 31-13 victory. UTEP put up 400 total yards of offense and only punted once in the game, but were 2-6 on fourth down conversions.
The loss continues a troubling trend for the Miners, who were a combined 5-39 from 2017-2021, but looked like they had turned the page last season, going 7-6, winning six of their first seven games. However, the team dropped five of their final six games, including a 31-24 loss to Fresno State in the New Mexico Bowl. The offense looked good behind quarterback Gavin Hardison, who threw for 293 yards and a touchdown. However, he completed just 21 of 48 passes.
UTEP has 15 starters returning from last year’s team, including seven on the offensive side of the ball. They also have their top two pass rushers, and six of their seven leading tacklers back from last season. They did lose their top two wide receivers, but Tyrin Smith had seven catches for 127 yards and a touchdown and Reynaldo Flores had eight catches for 122 yards in the opening loss. There is definitely some offensive talent here.
Venables Makes Debut for SoonersBrent Venables takes over as the head coach at Oklahoma, looking to establish himself as the guy who was going to lead this club into the SEC in 2024. He is viewed as a hot young defensive coach, who has turned this offense over to Jeff Lebby. Venables knows Oklahoma football well and was a smart choice by the team.
There is a lot to like about this Sooners team, but there are some questions at the quarterback position. The team lost both of their top two quarterbacks who transferred away from the school but bring in Dylan Gabriel from UCF. He is an experienced quarterback who has had a lot of success, completing 68.6% of his passes last season for 814 yards and nine touchdowns. He suffered through an injury-plagued season but threw for over 3500 yards in each of his two previous seasons and has gotten better with his accuracy each year.
The reason that Venables was chosen is that this Oklahoma defense struggled, allowing almost 26 points per game and 400 yards per contest. The team was able to get pressure on the quarterback last season but were steamrolled by clubs that could move the ball on the ground, including giving up nearly 300 yards to Baylor. They got some help through the transfer portal, and the linebacking corps is very good. This should be a strength this season instead of a liability.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
The last time these teams met at Oklahoma, the Sooners came away with a 49-point victory. The question is can they put up that kind of production again, especially with a quarterback with minimal experience with this offense. Oklahoma should be fine, and they have an offensive coordinator who knows how to put up points and move the ball quickly. So, Oklahoma should have no problems moving the ball.
UTEP struggled against North Texas last week, so one can only imagine what kind of performance this offense is going to put up against a much-improved Sooners defense. No doubt that Venables is going to want to leave his mark right off the bat, so expect the defense to get pressure early and for the Sooners to roll in this contest.
Full-Game Total Pick
To be honest, it would not be surprising to see Oklahoma score 57 points on their own in this game. This is a Jeff Lebby specialty, who left Ole Miss to come to Oklahoma, but his club led the SEC in total offense and was 12th in the nation in rushing yards last season. This offense should be fine and should really have some success against a Miners defense that does not have nearly the talent of Oklahoma.
The question is if UTEP can put up enough points to ensure that this game does go over 57. One should expect Oklahoma to score somewhere around 50-55, so all that is needed is for the Miners to come up with six or seven points. That is well within the realm of possibilities.
Take Oklahoma to win, 56-7.