Conference: Big XII
Season Record: 2-1
Last Week's Opponent: Maryland (W 40-37)
Points Scored Per Game: 39 (Ranks 40th Nationally)
Points Allowed Per Game: 23.3 (Ranks 55th Nationally)
Last Meeting With Sooners: September 7, 2013 (L 16-7)
With Oklahoma set to take their first true road trip of the season (no, I'm not counting Tulsa as a road game) they were hit with some bad news on Monday that running back Keith Ford would not be available. In a game where offensive production will most likely come at a NASCAR pace, the Sooners will need to be clicking on all cylinders when they have the ball. The good news for OU is that while Dana Holgorsen has found his offense again, his defense is still surrendering 23.3 points per game.
Of course, no one has forgotten Oklahoma's shootout trip to Morgantown in 2012. While I don't expect this to be that type of game, with offenses going crazy, I do feel like it'll be somewhere in between the 2012 and 2013 games. Here's the first look at West Virginia.
Behind senior quarterback Clint Trickett, Holgorsen has resurrected his offense after an abysmal 2013 season. Trickett is completing 75% of his passes for an average of 9.13 yards per attempt. He's thrown seven touchdown strikes to just one interception, and his 1,224 passing yards are the most in the Big XII.
Kevin White has been Trickett's top receiver this season. The 6-3/210 senior has hauled in in 32 passes for 460 yards and two scores in the Mountaineers first three games. He's complimented by Mario Alford (9.8 YPC), who has a team-high three touchdowns, and running back Wendell Smallwood (15.4 YPC).
Compared to the passing attack, West Virginia's running game takes a bit of a back seat. That doesn't mean that they haven't been effective though. Sophomore Rushel Shell leads the team with 207 yards and is averaging 4.1 yards per carry. Much in the same was as Oklahoma uses Keith Ford, Shell is also a threat out of the backfield where he's caught nine passes for 73 yards this season.
The key matchup here is going to be how West Virginia's offensive line holds up against Oklahoma's defensive front, and this may be the biggest difference between the 2012 shootout and this game. Oklahoma is much stronger and quicker up front than they were in 2012 and while the o-line is helping the Mountaineers to one of the conference's best passing attacks, they've also seen their quarterback sacked a Big XII leading eight times in three games.
At 23.3 points allowed per game, West Virginia is ranked sixth in the Big XII in scoring defense. Opposing quarterbacks are completing 55.8% of their passes for an average of 204 .7 yards per game. The Mountaineers have allowed two passing scores this season and have also nabbed two interceptions. Running backs are having a bit more success on the ground which is why Ross and Perine must come up big. Opposing running backs are averaging 4.7 yards per carry and the Mountaineers have given up four scores on the ground this season.
Junior safety Karl Joseph is tied with Nick Kwiatkoski for a team-high 24 tackles. Kwiatkoski is also tied with Isaiah Bruce with three tackles for loss. which is also a team high. To put something in perspective just a little bit, West Virginia has twelve players to have recorded tackles for loss this season and Oklahoma had eight do so just in the Tennessee game Saturday night alone.
Another couple of areas of struggle to point out in the WVU defense is their inability to force turnovers and to get pressure on the quarterback. Sophomore corner Daryl Worley is the only Mountaineer defender to record an interception this season (he has two) and West Virginia has no forced fumbles on the year. When it comes to putting pressure on the quarterback, the Mountaineers have six sacks on the year and just four quarterback hurries.
We'll get more into this later in the week but two things are clear, Oklahoma must attack this West Virginia on the ground first and then let Trevor Knight pick at them once the defense has committed to the run.