NCAA Preview: Oklahoma At Houston

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No. 3 Oklahoma (11-2) at Houston (13-1) in NRG Stadium, 11:00 a.m. on Saturday

Line: Oklahoma State by 10½.

Series Record: Oklahoma leads 2-0.

WHAT’S AT STAKE

So, so much for Houston. A victory by the Cougars sets up coach Tom Herman’s team to possibly make a push to become the first team outside the Power Five conferences to reach the College Football Playoff. It would also be a huge win for the American Athletic Conference as a whole and it could sting the Big 12 all season. Oklahoma has opportunities to rebound, but a loss would be a tough start for a team with national championship aspirations.

KEY MATCHUP

Oklahoma linebackers vs. Houston QB Greg Ward Jr.’s running. Ward ran for 1,108 yards and 21 touchdowns last season. He is elusive and fast, but undersized at 5-foot-11, 185 pounds. The Sooners are relying on some new starters and inexperienced players at linebacker such as Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and Tay Evans, who will need to hem in Ward.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Oklahoma: QB Baker Mayfield. The junior threw for 3,700 yards and 36 touchdowns, and ran for seven touchdowns last season. Mayfield finished fourth in the Heisman voting.

Houston: LB Steven Taylor. The Cougars lost some key players in the back seven, but Taylor is an all-over-the-field linebacker. He had 92 tackles, 10 sacks and two interceptions last season.

FACTS & FIGURES

Houston has its highest preseason ranking since 1991 and Oklahoma is the highest ranked team the Cougars have ever faced to start the season. The Cougars are the highest ranked opening opponent for Oklahoma since 1986, when the Sooners faced No. 4 UCLA. Houston has won five straight games against Power Five opponents, the longest streak in the nation for a team outside the Power Five. Mayfield gets a lot of attention, but Oklahoma might have the best running back duo in the country in Samaje Perine (1,349 yards last season) and Joe Mixon (753). Houston was plus-21 in turnover margin last year, second-best in the country. Oklahoma was plus-9.

(© Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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