The Oklahoma Sooners are expected to annihilate the Utah State Aggies this Saturday evening. According to our college football betting lines page, the Sooners opened as a 28 point favorite and now books are listing the game at 34 points. The betting public is on the side of the Sooners at a staggering 97% clip, which is why the line has jumped 6 points. By game time, this line will hopefully be at or over 35 ½ points.
Excessive betting on the side of Oklahoma has created nice value for Utah State in this match-up. Without even playing a game and coming off a disappointing 2009 campaign, the Oklahoma Sooners are predicted to utterly dismantle Utah State. And they might. But there isn’t yet any good reason for the public to be murdering the line like this.
One factor that has influenced the line (and probably public consciousness) is that one of Utah State’s two primary weapons will be out with an injury. Running back Robert Turbin tore his ACL in the off-season and will likely miss the entire 2010 season. Last season Turbin totaled over 1,700 yards between rushing and receiving, along with 18 total touchdowns. Have no doubt – his absence in this game has been noticed.
Beyond the fact that Turbin’s replacement is more than capable, the Aggies as a team aren’t getting enough respect in this game. Utah State has one of the most underrated offenses in the WAC, and maybe the country. Last year Utah State averaged 440 yards and over 29 points per game. And they were balanced – 246.8 yards through the air (36th nationally) and 193.2 yards on the ground (20th nationally).
Those numbers will likely go up this season, even without Turbin. The Aggies welcome back 7 starters without Turbin. Senior quarterback Diondre Borel is a dual-threat athlete with an accurate arm, which is hard to find. In 2009, Borel threw for nearly 2,900 yards, rushed for over 450 yards, totaled 23 touchdowns, and had only 4 interceptions all season! While Turbin will be missed, expect senior tailback Michael Smith to nicely fill the void. Smith is reported to be lightning-quick with deceptive power, and last year he averaged a gaudy 6.3 yards per carry. Borel has a stable of receivers to distribute the ball to, and four returning offensive linemen make this Aggies’ offense a force to be reckoned with.
Unfortunately, Utah State has to play defense, too. In 2009, the Aggies gave up a mind-blowing 34 points per contest (107th nationally). The upside is that 8 starters return on defense, and I have to imagine they’ll be markedly better this season. Junior linebacker Bobby Wagner was 1st team all-WAC last season, ending up with 115 tackles and 2 picks. Converted rush end Junior Keiaho joins Wagner at linebacker making this level of the defense formidable. The defensive line has 3 returning starters back, which should make the Aggies much better against the rush. Considering they gave up over 200 yards a game on the ground last season, one would hope so. The secondary also brings back a few starters, but lost their best contributor to graduation. Lost in the shuffle is that head coach Gary Andersen is the former Utah defensive coordinator. Expect play on this side of the ball to be much improved.
The Oklahoma Sooners are a preseason top 10 team, and for good reason. The Sooners appear to be stacked. Nine starters return on offense, led by quarterback Landry Jones and running back DeMarco Murray. Jones filled in nicely for injured Sam Bradford, throwing for 3,200 yards, 26 tds, and 14 ints. Murray totaled over 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns. And junior wide receiver Ryan Broyles hauled in 89 catches for 1,120 yards and 15 touchdowns last season, earning him 2nd team all-Big 12 honors. The offensive line will be another strong unit, making the Sooners one of the elite offenses in the country, again.
The defense brings back only 4 starters, but every position will be filled by someone with extensive playing time. The defensive line should be the strength of the D, led by senior defensive end Jeremy Beal. Last year Beal was 3rd team all-America with 11 sacks. Only one starting linebacker returns, but that one is junior Travis Lewis, who was 1st team all-Big 12 last year. The secondary brings back both safeties, but both cornerbacks are gone. Yet with the talent Oklahoma recruits year in and year out, the Sooners have ample, able replacements. By the end of the season, this defense will be rock solid.
However I think it will take a little time for the Sooner defense to gel together, which bodes well for the Aggies and their high-octane offense. Oklahoma’s schedule offers Utah State another advantage. The Sooners have a showdown with Florida State next week in Norman. Both the coaching staff and the players have already looked down the road to that game, I imagine. Then Air Force and Cincinnati round out a difficult non-conference schedule that leads into the Red River Shootout with Texas. If there is one game to look past, this is it.
I’m not saying Utah State is going to shock the college football world and beat the mighty Sooners. But I do think the Aggies have a great chance of covering this spread, thanks to the value added by excessive betting on Oklahoma. Also worth mentioning is that over the past two seasons Utah State is one of the better underdogs in college football, going 11-5 against the spread as a ‘dog. They’re 13-4 on a grass field, 5-2 in non-conference games, and a respectable 7-5 on the road. Those are good numbers. Over the same time period the Sooners are 14-9 ats as a favorite, and 7-3 at home. They’re also 4-1 in September games. Both teams are good against the spread, but 34 points is a lot.
The one thing that might burn this play is Bob Stoops. If he can, Stoops will run it up on lesser opponents. But I don’t think Oklahoma can even if they want to. And after losing Jermaine Gresham and Sam Bradford to injuries in the first game of last season, I see coach Stoops calling off the dogs to avoid injury, especially with their upcoming schedule. Take a good Aggies offense, an unproven Sooner team, an extra touchdown against the spread, and this looks like a good play to me.
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