After producing their first losing record since 1998, #20 Oklahoma looks to bounce back this year in major fashion. They begin their campaign with what is essentially a tune-up game versus Arkansas State, who went 3-9 last season under former Tennessee head coach Butch Jones.
Can Arkansas State keep this relatively close? Check out below for Arkansas State vs. Oklahoma odds, picks, and predictions.
Arkansas State vs. Oklahoma Prediction & Best Bet
I’m certainly not a strong believer in Oklahoma’s defense against equal competition, but they have the tools to absolutely shut down this lacking Arkansas State offense.
Arkansas State fields a new quarterback in Colorado transfer JT Shrout, but he must prove his ability to orchestrate an effective offense. Shrout owns an abysmal career 46.7 completion percentage on 272 attempts along with an awful 1.09 touchdown to interception ratio.
He especially struggles with no time. Across 66 dropbacks under pressure last season, Shrout produced a 20.4 completion percentage, 0 Big Time Throws, and 8 Turnover Worthy Plays (per PFF). To put that into context, of the 140 quarterbacks with at least 50 dropbacks under pressure, Shrout ranked dead last in completion percentage, dead last in big time throw percentage, and 138th in turnover worthy play percentage. Yikes!
Shrout enters an Arkansas State program that ranked 115th of 131 in PFFs Pass Blocking grade and 103rd in Run Blocking. This offensive line allowed 26 sacks, 40 quarterback hits, and 84 hurries last season! They did pick up two solid transfers that could help fortify the line, but it’s highly unlikely Arkansas State improves much.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma’s defense registered 104 tackles for loss – good for fourth in the nation. They return defensive linemen Ethan Downs, Reggie Grimes II, Jonah Laulu, and Jordan Kelley, who combined for 14 sacks and 71 hurries. In addition, they possess excellent linebackers in tackling machine Danny Stutsman, Jaren Kanak, and Indiana transfer Dasan McCullough.
Overall, the Sooners should obliterate Arkansas State’s offensive line and terrorize Shrout all game. I expect Shrout to commit mistakes as a result and be unable to connect with his receivers. Even if Arkansas State manages to drive down the field for a touchdown, there is still leeway on this line for a field goal – it’s worth the juice to me.
Arkansas State vs. Oklahoma Odds
Oklahoma is rightfully a massive favorite; the spread is 36.5 points. For the Sooners to hold a positive expected value, they must cover here at least 52.4% of the time. The over under is also a large number at 58.5 total points. The books are assuredly expecting Oklahoma’s dynamic offense to effortlessly rack up points.
Arkansas State vs. Oklahoma Key Matchups
Corey Rucker vs. Oklahoma Secondary
Rucker started his career at Arkansas State; he notched 1,279 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns across his first two seasons. Rucker transferred to South Carolina, but injuries forced him to miss all but two games. The 6’0” slot receiver is back, but can he be Shrout’s go-to target. Of the 52 receivers with at least 100 targets in 2021, Rucker was dead last in drop percentage, 47th in yards per route run, and 50th in PFF’s Receiving grade. Oklahoma’s secondary has its holes, but they are still one of the most talented units Rucker has faced. If Arkansas State is going to post at least 11 points, then Rucker has to create separation and hold onto the ball.
Oklahoma Turnovers & Field Position
The easiest path for Arkansas State to score is through a turnover or three-and-out that gives them optimal field position. Therefore, Oklahoma’s offense has to constantly move the chains and not commit careless errors. Fortunately, Dillon Gabriel is the ideal choice. Of the 93 quarterbacks with at least 300 dropbacks, he had the second lowest turnover worthy play percentage at a measly 1.1 percent. Oklahoma also produced a solid 40.51 third down conversion percentage, so they were able to extend drives. If the Sooners limit mistakes and never offer desirable field position, then it will be extremely difficult for Arkansas State to drive down the field numerous times.