Nebraska vs. Oklahoma Odds & Pick: Bet the Huskers in High-Scoring College Football Matchup (September 18)
Dustin Bradford/Getty Images. Pictured: Adrian Martinez.
- The Nebraska Cornhuskers travel to Norman, Oklahoma, to take on the Oklahoma Sooners at 12 p.m. ET Saturday.
- Nebraska tried to get out of this game earlier in the year, but it's still taking place.
- Check out Collin Wilson's full betting preview with updated odds, a pick, and a prediction below.
Nebraska vs. Oklahoma Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
The biggest Southwest Conference rivalry saw an upset with Arkansas defeating Texas in Week 2, but can the largest rivalry from the Big 8 days see another?
The Sooners and Huskers have not played since the 2010 Big 12 Championship game, and the last time Nebraska won in Norman, the Huskers had Scott Frost under center.
There is additional drama surrounding this game because of Nebraska’s attempt to back out of the matchup.
Nebraska is trying to get out of playing Oklahoma on Sept. 18, sources told @Stadium. The Cornhuskers have contacted other schools to play in Lincoln on that date, sources said. The game was scheduled to mark 50th anniversary of 1971 "Game of the Century" b/w No. 1 NU & No. 2 OU
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) March 12, 2021
These two teams are headed in separate directions, as Oklahoma survived Tulane and embarrassed Western Carolina to move to 2-0. Nebraska took an opening loss to Illinois but has rebounded in victorious covers against Buffalo and Fordham.
The heat on Frost has subsided for a couple of weeks, but a blowout by the Sooners will keep the head-coaching seat sizzling in Lincoln.
While pending NCAA violations loom over the program, Nebraska has quietly blown two non-Power Five teams away. This has given a much-needed boost to the statistics but also established an identity.
The Cornhuskers run the ball at a 64% clip, one of the highest marks in the nation. Nebraska has middling FBS numbers in Rushing Success Rate and Line Yards, but the defense is beginning to live up to preseason expectations.
One area that has not improved for Nebraska is special teams, as it owns an SP+ rank of 128th. While punt efficiency ranks 99th, the kickoff return unit has had just one efficient attempt all season. The Cornhuskers have the sixth-worst average starting field position after kickoff in all of FBS.
The special teams issues certainly compound the inability to sustain drives, a sticking point for the trip to Norman.
The offense fielded by Frost was predictable in previous seasons in terms of rush formations in standard downs and passing attempts through the 11 formations on passing downs.
This season has seen 71% of plays in a one tight end and one running back set.
While Markese Stepp and Gabe Ervin Jr. receive the lion’s share of attempts, neither can produce the explosive play like quarterback Adrian Martinez on the ground.
It looked like @MartinezTheQB would be sacked.
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) September 11, 2021
Stepp and Ervin average 2.2 yards after contact, well shy of Martinez at 6.4 yards after contact.
If college football were based on busted plays, Martinez would be one of the best in the nation with 247 scramble yards against just 49 in designed runs.
Fumble issues persist, with two against Illinois and another against Fordham after entering the season with 33 total. A clean game from a fumble perspective came against Buffalo, but the Bulls have not forced a fumble all season.
Martinez producing a clean box score is crucial for a cover, especially considering the Oklahoma defense leads the nation in forced fumbles.
The preseason hype around the back seven on defense is a positive for the Huskers. Nebraska grades out 16th in coverage and seventh in tackling, per PFF.
The list of offenses includes Fordham, Buffalo and an Illinois team with a backup quarterback, but coordinator Erik Chinander has produced a top-30 rank in Defensive Finishing Drives.
To this point, Chinander has called a 2-5-4 defense on over 75% of plays with an enormous 35% blitz percentage.
— Nebraska On BTN (@NebraskaOnBTN) August 28, 2021
The scheme can be boom-or-bust when pressure comes from four or five defenders, but to this point, the Nebraska defense is top-40 in defending big plays, defined as 12-plus yard runs and 15-plus yard passes.
Oklahoma will certainly test the high Nebraska marks in big play and tackling, but expect the blitz to come from Nebraska with the goal of generating turnovers from the Sooners offense.
The Sooners had a sweater of a Week 1 to kick off the 2021 season.
The game against Tulane was originally scheduled to take place in New Orleans before Hurricane Ida displaced the Green Wave roster. The opener was moved to Norman, as the Sooners did everything to make Tulane feel at home, from donating proceeds to painting the Angry Wave on the field.
Little did Oklahoma know that Tulane would attempt an onside kick at the end of the fourth quarter for a chance to win the game. The box score opened eyes as the Tulane offense produced as much as the Sooners, creating as many explosive drives and more two-plus first down possessions.
The Green Wave generated six tackles for loss and kept Oklahoma at 7.4 yards dor its average distance on third-down attempts.
The Western Carolina box score would shed little light after a 76-0 drumming, but both the offense and defense are on alert against Nebraska.
Year over year, the Sooners offense posts video-game type numbers, but there might be a few areas Oklahoma investors want to give attention.
Oklahoma ranks 94th in Offensive Line Yards, signifying the trench is not producing the yards needed with respect to down and distance. Tackle Tyrese Robinson has posted the lowest run-blocking grade through 115 snaps in two games.
The running back stable was light in experience with Kennedy Brooks returning and Tennessee transfer Eric Gray, but neither has produced at the level Oklahoma expected. Gray and Brooks have forced just 18 missed tackles in 38 rushing attempts, and neither averages more than 3.5 yards after contact.
The offense has been productive, ranking second in pass blocking and 18th in Finishing Drives. The poor mark in Havoc Allowed is drawn to 10 tackles for loss recorded against the offense this season.
Another area of concern early comes in the advanced numbers of Heisman hopeful Spencer Rattler, now up to six touchdowns against two interceptions this season.
— Oklahoma Football (@OU_Football) September 12, 2021
Upon further inspection, Rattler has posted zero big-time throws and generated three turnover-worthy plays. Last season, the then-freshman had a three-to-one ratio in the statistic, but the three turnover-worthy plays all came against Tulane.
Only once did Rattler have that many turnover-worthy plays in one game — last season’s loss to Kansas State.
The numbers could be a part of head coach Lincoln Riley’s plan before conference play begins, as Rattler has attempted just four passes past 20 yards.
The quarterback is posting the same adjusted completion rates in pressured dropbacks in 2020, but play design is putting the work on the wide receivers.
Mario Williams and Jadon Haselwood have been targeted the most so far in the season, but neither has an average depth of target over 6.4 yards. Marvin Mims is the home-run hitter of the group but has recorded just six catches on nine targets.
Considering Nebraska’s strength comes in coverage grading, Oklahoma dink-and-dunks to explosive plays will put a heavy emphasis on the Huskers tackling to prevent scores.
The third season of the Alex Grinch era has seen mixed results through two games.
Western Carolina didn’t generate a single point or have a red-zone attempt, so the bulk of the sample comes from the Tulane opener.
The Green Wave averaged five points per trip past the 40-yard line, scoring five touchdowns in six trips to the red zone. With a new offensive coordinator in place, Tulane beat national averages in every situation from run or pass to standard and passing downs.
The Sooners are top-40 in Havoc, following a similar route of chaos versus previously coached Grinch units. The two areas that require attention are a rank of 78th in tackling and 112th in Finishing Drives. Technique and fundamentals against Tulane resulted in additional yards and scores.
Grinch has stressed playing all four quarters against Nebraska, as Martinez presents more of what Tulane can do from a perspective of ground explosiveness.
Nebraska vs. Oklahoma Matchup Analysis
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Nebraska and Oklahoma match up statistically:
Nebraska Offense vs. Oklahoma Defense
Oklahoma Offense vs. Nebraska Defense
Pace of Play / Other
Nebraska vs. Oklahoma Betting Pick
Teams make the biggest jump with regards to improvement between their first and second game.
The Oklahoma defense continued to miss tackles through the Western Carolina game, specifically edge Reggie Grimes and linebacker DaShaun White. Although the Catamounts were held to 2.8 yards per play, the Oklahoma defense missed 10 total tackles.
Martinez will have no issues in the elusiveness department, but the Sooners are failing at the point of attack with arm tackles.
As for the Oklahoma offense, the playbook for Rattler is a point of discussion, considering Nebraska boasts one of the best grades in the country in tackling.
Chinander sends blitz at a higher rate than most Power Five defenses, putting pressure on Rattler to find the hot route. To this point, Oklahoma has not been able to control the trench in standard downs nor post breakaway runs.
The market is saturated with support for the Sooners, and that should continue up until kickoff. The Action Network projection has the game set at Oklahoma -16, a full touchdown from the market number.
As with every Cornhuskers game, turnovers are an impossible handicap when it comes to Martinez. Oklahoma does force fumbles at a higher rate than any other defense, but that doesn’t negate a Martinez explosive play from any down and distance.
Until the Sooners firm up a defensive unit from missing tackles and Rattler throws downfield, Nebraska will keep this within the number under the assumption that there are no turnovers.
Our projection on the total sits at 59.5, a shade lower than the market offering. Nebraska has the 24th-fastest tempo in the nation but is primarily a ground-based attack.
Considering the arm tackling of Oklahoma, the explosiveness of Martinez, and the Sooners’ desire to be in shootouts, a small play on the over is suggested.