Arkansas State vs Oklahoma Preview: Venables Needs Much Better Start

Sooners Coming off First Losing Year in Nearly a Quarter-Century

Can the Oklahoma Sooners rebound from a surprisingly difficult 2022 season? They’ll get their first opportunity when the Arkansas State Red Wolves visit Saturday to kick off Year Two of the Brent Venables Era.

The seven-time college football NCAA champions are a healthy 35-point favorite (-110), representing one of the larger spreads on the Week 1 slate. Meanwhile, the projected total is 58 (-110). Read on as we break down both teams in our Arkansas State vs Oklahoma preview.

Red Wolves logo Arkansas State vs Oklahoma Sooners logo

Day/Time:
Location: Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium; Norman, OK.
Streaming: ESPN

Venables Hoping for Better Year Two

The Oklahoma Sooners took a big step back in Brent Venables’ first season at the helm, finishing 6-7. A 35-32 loss to Florida State in the Cheez-It Bowl, according to NCAAF scores, sealed the school’s first losing season since 1998.

Despite that, expectations remain high. Ranked 20th in the preseason Associated Press Top 25 poll, the Sooners are projected for 9.5 wins, with a -120 lean to the Under. They’re also +350 to win the Big 12, their final season in the conference before departing for the SEC in 2024-25. At the moment, only Texas (Even) has better odds. The Sooners are also +6000 to win the national championship.

Much of the optimism surrounds the return of Dillon Gabriel. The former UCF transfer bounced back from an injury-marred season to pass for 3,168 yards, 25 touchdowns, and only six interceptions. Gabriel also contributed six scores on the ground. He is a +3500 longshot to win the Heisman Trophy.

The Sooners lost a sizeable chunk of talent elsewhere on offense, including running back Eric Gray, offensive lineman Anton Harrison, and wide receiver Marvin Mims. But Gabriel is talented enough to elevate those around him and help the Sooners climb back up the NCAA football rankings. The bigger concern could be on the other side of the ball. Fixing a defense that allowed 30 points per game in 2022 is a must. Keep that in mind when assessing the odds in our Arkansas State vs Oklahoma preview.

Another Long Year in Store for Wolves

The Arkansas State Red Wolves are just 5-19 over the last two seasons, and with only seven starters returning, Butch Jones’ team is likely headed for another tough year. Former Colorado and Tennessee quarterback JT Shrout is expected to start for a team that went 1-7 in Sun Belt Conference play. Shrout completed just 44.3% of his passes last year for Colorado, to go with seven touchdowns and eight interceptions.

The Red Wolves are projected for 4.5 wins, with the Overpriced -130, and have the fourth-longest odds (+600) to win the Sun Belt. They could have trouble reaching that total, even with a relatively manageable non-conference schedule. The last time they won more than four games was in 2019 when they went 8-5 and beat Florida International in the Camellia Bowl, 34-26.

For Arkansas State to have any hope of meeting or even exceeding expectations, it must improve defensively. The Red Wolves allowed a whopping 31.5 points per game in conference play last season, including 38 points or more three times.

Handicapping the Game

Oklahoma needs to get off to a fast start this season under Venables, and what better way to do so than by facing Arkansas State? The Red Wolves, a bottom-tier Sun Belt team, don’t have much of a chance here. They really don’t. But you knew that already.

Departures and all, Gabriel is positioned to have another big season on offense. It was easy to overlook him in 2022 because of the Sooners’ inability to win games. But his return keeps them in the mix for a Big 12 title. That much is certain.

This is a major mismatch, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Sooners cover the spread in the Arkansas State vs Oklahoma preview.


For NCAAF predictions, odds, analysis, and more, visit Point Spreads Sports Magazine.


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