Oklahoma football: What fans should know about Oklahoma vs. SMU

Oklahoma coach Brent Venables celebrates during a college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the Arkansas State Red Wolves at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023. Oklahoma won 73-0.
Oklahoma coach Brent Venables celebrates during a college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the Arkansas State Red Wolves at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023. Oklahoma won 73-0. /

Week 1 of the 2023 college football season was a cakewalk — to put it mildly — for Oklahoma football Team 129, but don’t expect the same result this weekend.

SMU comes calling to Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on Saturday. This is the one OU contest this season that will not be broadcast on commercial or cable TV, but the game will be available for viewing on ESPN+. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. CT. The announcing crew will be Shawn Kenney on play-by-play, Ryan Leaf as the analyst and Tori Petry on the sidelines.

The Mustangs, who will join the Atlantic Coast Conference beginning next season, come to Norman fresh off a 38-14 season-opening win over Louisiana Tech.

Oklahoma and SMU have faced each other seven previous times with OU owning a 5-1-1 all-time record against the Mustangs. The most recent contest between the two teams was in 1995 in Howard Schellenberger’s first and only season as the Sooners’ head coach. OU, ranked 14th in the country at the time, defeated the Mustangs 24-10 in Norman.

Saturday, Sept. 9. Sooners -15.5. 1-0. 884. ESPN+. 1-0. 815. 5 p.m. CT

SMU’s lone victory in the series was a 28-27 win in the 1968 Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl in Houston.

The game on Saturday is the first of a home-and-home series that was added to the schedule when the SEC directed both Georgia and Tennessee to cancel 2024 and 2025 nonconference games with Oklahoma because the Sooners will already be members of the SEC in those years.

The Sooners were originally scheduled to host Georgia in a non-con game this season, but because the Bulldogs would not be able to fulfill their reciprocal contractual nonconference home-and-home obligation, the decision was made to scrap the two games. SMU was contracted to fill the void in the 2023 schedule. OU will play at SMU in 2027 as the second part of the home-and-home series.

There are a couple of Oklahoma connections that are worth noting in conjunction with the OU-SMU contest on Saturday. Former OU defensive line coach Calvin Thibodeaux is now at SMU in the same capacity. Thibodeaux was an assistant under Bob Stoops in 2016 and again from 2019-21 on Lincoln Riley’s coaching staff. Thibodeaux also played for Stoops at Oklahoma from 2002-06 and earned All-Big 12 honors in 2005.

What fans should know about SMU

The Mustangs will be a significant upgrade over Arkansas State. Brent Venables described them as a veteran team with a large number of returning seniors and talented players on both sides of the ball. “They’ve recruited well and attacked the portal,” the OU head coach said in his press conference this week, and have brought in some highly recruited, quality players.

SMU comes into the game with Oklahoma after totaling 457 yards of offense in the season opener with Louisiana Tech That offensive output ranked 41st best in the country. The Mustangs gave up 269 yards on defense, but only 28 yards on the ground. SMU’s six sacks on defense is the third most among FBS teams after two weeks in the 2023 season.

The SMU offense is directed by sophomore quarterback Preston Stone, a highly touted recruit who had offers from Alabama, Georgia, LSU and Auburn but ultimately chose his hometown team SMU. He completed 23 of 37 passes for 248 yards and three touchdowns last weekend against Louisiana Tech.

The Mustangs’ top receiving target is Jordan Hudson, interestingly a former Oklahoma commit. At 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, Hudson has good size. He had a 67-yard touchdown catch in Week 1. Hudson originally committed to OU in 2020. He was committed for almost a full year before decommitting in 2021. He was on the verge of committing to SMU, but the coach who recruited him there left SMU to go elsewhere and Hudson ended up at TCU. He did not play much for the 2022 Big 12 champions, and in April he transferred to SMU.

SMU has a pair of outstanding running backs in Texas A&M transfer L.J. Johnson and Jaylan Knighton. Johnson rushed for 128 yards last weekend and averaged 9.1 yards per carry.

All told, SMU will be a good test for OU, especially on defense, and a much better indication of where the Sooners program is this season than a week ago.

What fans should know about Oklahoma

The Sooners were firing on all cylinders in the season opener with quarterbacks Dillon Gabriel and Jackson Arnold combining for 30 of 33 passing for 422 yards and three touchdowns. Gabriel also had a rushing touchdown.

Oklahoma used five running backs in the game and totaled 220 rushing yards, averaged 4.5 yards per carry and scored six rushing touchdowns. Ten Sooner receivers caught at least one pass in the game, displaying the depth and talent within the receiving corps, which was a large uncertainty heading into the new season. OU’s 642 yards of total offense ranks seventh among FBS teams through the first two weeks of the season.

The Sooners gave up 208 yards of total offense to Arkansas State, the fewest yards the OU defense has allowed in nearly two seasons. SMU will pose a much stronger defensive challenge. The key against the Mustangs will be stopping the run. If the Sooners are able to do that with an improved defensive front, it will be a big struggle for the SMU offense to keep pace with OU.


Don’t expect a 73-point winning margin this week, but the Sooners should win this game. The Las Vegas oddsmakers have established Oklahoma as a 15.5-point favorite. The key is Oklahoma’s ability to run the ball against a solid SMU defensive line. Dillon Gabriel should be able to pick apart the Mustang pass defense. If OU can establish the run, the Sooner passing game will become even more lethal. We will know a lot more about this Oklahoma team after Saturday. Oklahoma 41, SMU 17