Football

Bucking the line: Will Oklahoma struggle again as a favorite over Texas?

Posted October 12th, 2017

The Sooners might have the Longhorns right where they want them.

Much has been made of these teams seemingly headed in opposite directions, arrow pointing up for Texas and Oklahoma scuffling of late. That could actually play out in OUs favor Saturday.

The burden of expectations has hurt Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry. Over the last decade-plus, the Sooners often have come into this game as a 10-to-17-point favorite, which put them at a psychological disadvantage. People expect an easy win, and the favorite gets a little too comfortable.

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Oklahoma is 2-8 vs. the line against Texas the last 10 times it’s been a favorite of 10 or more.

Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson (46) looks to tackle Oklahoma’s Joe Mixon (25) at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016. (Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)

Texas has embraced that huge underdog mentality, knowing it has turned up its game a few more notches. The Longhorns are 4-0 against the spread the last four years against OU, winning twice outright as a double-digit favorite.

The Sooners opened as a more reasonable 8½-point favorite on Sunday night. It was quickly bet down to 7½ but, somewhat surprisingly, money poured in Thursday on OU and the line rose to 8 or 8½. It won’t go any higher and probably will come down some by kickoff.

After losing to Iowa State, Oklahoma won’t have to worry about feeling too cozy against Texas. No, this has been a high-wire, emotional week of practice for the Sooners, according to reports from Norman.

“In the past after a tough loss, we’ve been able to respond,” coach Lincoln Riley told reporters. “I would hope we have enough pride that we’d be motivated to go play Norman Junior High this week.”

Oklahoma takes a shocking loss nearly every year and bounces back with a vengeance. The Sooners are 24-2 straight up following a defeat over the last decade, 17-9 against the spread. OU also is 14-1 straight up and 10-5 vs. the line over the last 15 games.

So far about 52 percent of the legal wagering in Las Vegas on this game has been on the Sooners.

One could make the case, though, that it’s a new ballgame with Lincoln Riley as the coach instead of Bob Stoops.

On the field, Texas needs to cash in on an OU pass defense ranked 97th in efficiency and 79th in yardage allowed. Oklahoma is tough to run against.

From a Longhorns perspective, that puts the game in Sam Ehlinger’s arm. The Westlake product has looked impressive, but he’s a freshman and freshmen quarterbacks are prone to turnovers when they’re away from home.

Baker Mayfield is a senior, one of the most experienced and proven leaders in college football. He has thrown for 15 touchdowns and 0 picks, so clearly OU has a key advantage.

While Bucking cannot trust Oklahoma enough against Texas to be a Best Bet, the lean here is to take the Sooners in a 38-28 game.

Defensive back Kamari Cotton-Moya #5, David Montgomery #32, wide receiver Allen Lazard #5 , and tight end Sam Harms #87 of the Iowa State Cyclones celebrate with teammates after winning 42-24 over the Northern Iowa Panthers in the second half of play at Jack Trice Stadium on September 2, 2017 in Ames, Iowa. The Iowa State Cyclones won 42-24 over the Northern Iowa Panthers. (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)

BUCKING THE LINE

I’ve been given an imaginary $1,000 bankroll for the college football season. Will I turn a profit — or need a loan by bowl season?

Update: After a 7-3 spurt, a 1-3 week dropped the season record to 12-16.

New bankroll: $894

BEST BETS

West Virginia (-3½) over Texas Tech: This is a tough road spot for the Red Raiders. They are one of the nation’s last four unbeaten, untied teams against the spread, but the number has finally caught up to them here. Mountaineers should win by at least a touchdown. $33

Kansas State (+7) over TCU: The line keeps rising with Jesse Ertz’s injury, but Alex Delton looks capable. The Wildcats have won 10 of their last 11 at home. They also are 10-2 ATS in their last dozen as a home underdog and 14-6 ATS in their last 20 as a home dog. $22

Kansas (+23) over Iowa State: Yes, the Jayhawks are dreadful. But can see the Cyclones, after upsetting OU, being too giddy to cover a large number this week. $22

Tennessee (-3) over South Carolina: Butch Jones is no genius but neither is Will Muschamp and Vols under extreme pressure to perform at home. $22

Florida State (-7) over Duke: Giving the Noles one more chance as a reasonable road favorite in North Carolina. $22

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