As college football fans know, a few key plays can significantly alter the course of a game. Saturday's match-up between the Oklahoma Sooners and West Virginia Mountaineers is no exception. The only question remaining: who ends up on the wrong side of these aforementioned game defining plays?
West Virginia's Keys To The Game
- Protect Clint Trickett - Over the course of three games, the Mountaineers have given up a league worst eight sacks. This week, the offensive line faces an elite pass rusher in Eric Striker. Keeping Tricket upright becomes of utmost importance if WVU hopes to hit their average of 410.3 passing yards per game. Looking at the challenge it starts with equalizing Jordan Phillips of Oklahoma. Throughout the season, the defensive tackle has continuously drawn a double team allowing the defensive ends and blitzing linebackers to get around the edge of the protection. With speed and physicality, the Sooners recorded five sacks against Tennessee. OU's defensive front has not faced a quarterback they simply could not get to and West Virginia appears to be no different.
- Force Oklahoma Into 3rd & Long Situations - 3rd & long situations quickly became a glaring issue for the Sooner offense. Stacking the box and daring Trevor Knight to throw proved to be an effective approach for the Tennessee Volunteers as Butch Jones and his crew held Oklahoma to a 25% conversion rate last Saturday. Now, the Mountaineers must find a way to do the same fi they hope to pull out a win. It starts by limiting the rushing attack and OU is without their leading rusher in Keith Ford. Regardless, the task does not become any easier facing an big and experienced offensive line of the Sooners.
Oklahoma's Keys To The Game
- Establish The Run - As mentioned above, Oklahoma will be without their leading rusher heading into Saturday. The focus now turns to Samaje Perine and Alex Ross to carry the load. While Perine fits into the mold of a power back and Ross a homerun threat, the duo must run the ball effectively. More often than not, how well a team runs the ball determines the outcome of the game. The Mountaineers give up 164 yards on the ground per game and, although short-handed, the Sooners must take advantage.
- Make A Living In The Backfield - Dating back to last season, OU saw success on the field when finding a way to rattle opposing quarterbacks. The expectation is not for this defense to come up with a sack on every single play. Rather the expectation is to see a Sooner defender in the backfield making his presence known by putting pressure on the quarterback early and often. Of course, the secondary must get involved in this as well by forcing Trickett to hang on to the ball a bit longer than he would like with tight coverage. The added time allows for the pass rush to shed the block and collapse the pocket. However, Trickett has proven to be efficient by completing 75% of his passes and possesses the mental tool necessary to make a play. With a physical receiver in Kevin White and nice complimentary players, this WVU offense looks potent. Make no mistake, this is not the team of last year and will provide a much bigger challenge this season.