On Tuesday, Texas offensive lineman Patrick Vahe learned how to gamble.
When asked about the Longhorns being underdogs for this weekend’s rematch with Oklahoma, Vahe replied “I don’t know the point system.” After a reporter explained betting lines, the 325-pound left guard shrugged.
“If they claim us as their underdog, I guess we are,” Vahe said. “At the same time, we’re just going to go out there and just play the game like we’ve always been doing this whole season.”
Oklahoma is the definitive favorite in Saturday’s Big 12 championship game. The Sooners were favored either 7.5 or eight points on Tuesday. So, essentially, anyone trying to win money on Oklahoma expects the Sooners (11-1) to beat Texas (9-3) by more than a touchdown.
That line may seem high to Texas fans. The Longhorns, after all, did beat Oklahoma 48-45 in an October contest the Sooners were favored in. Oklahoma’s wins over Texas in 2016 and 2017 were only five-point conquests.
So why are the Sooners favored this week? UT quarterback Sam Ehlinger figures its because of the Sooners’ high-scoring ways and “video-game stats.” Vahe pointed to UT’s past struggles. Defensive back P.J. Locke III suggested that the last-second win for Texas in October had been turned into a moral victory for Oklahoma.
Nonetheless, this gesture by the gamblers has become motivation for the Longhorns. Texas coach Tom Herman, who is 12-1 against the spread in his career as an underdog, told reporters on Monday that the Longhorns continually attempt to “train like you’re the underdog and play like you’re the champ.”
“It makes you work a little bit harder, it makes you want it a little bit more,” Ehlinger said. “You always want to train like you’re in second place. I think you literally feel that when you’re the underdog and nobody believes in you.”
That motivation, though, can only take the Longhorns so far. Ehligher noted an underdog mentality likely fuels a team more during its preparation than when it’s facing a second down. Senior Elijah Rodriguez said that “we have a plan in place. Being an underdog isn’t a part of that plan.”
UT’s plan will be needed to stop an Oklahoma team that is still eyeing a spot in the College Football Playoff. In the October meeting at the Cotton Bowl, Texas compiled 501 yards of offense but lost a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter. Freshman Cameron Dicker won the game with a 40-yard field goal with nine seconds remaining.
Oklahoma fired defensive coordinator Mike Stoops after the loss. The Sooners have allowed 230 points in the six games since that coaching change, but Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and West Virginia also have been on the schedule during that stretch. In last week’s 59-56 triumph at West Virginia, Oklahoma scored two defensive touchdowns.
Offensively, the Sooners have been led by Heisman Trophy candidate Kyler Murray. Oklahoma leads the country with the 50.3 points and 583.8 yards of offense it is averaging each game. Army is the only team to hold Oklahoma under 35 points this year.
“It’s a challenge for us,” Locke said. “(They’ve) got a Heisman candidate for quarterback, you’ve got a team that’s fighting for the playoffs, you’ve got a team that’s fighting for a Big 12 championship. We wouldn’t want it any other way.”