It’s going to be a cold, possibly snowy, night in Morgantown. And the Sooners should be on upset alert, as the weather could be as much an external factor of how the game unfolds as the rowdy home crowd for the Mountaineers. But there is also a key factor in favor of Oklahoma: Samaje Perine.
As Joe Mixon has been a part of college football’s most electrifying and productive offensive trio, Optimus Perine is built to be the foundation in a game like this. It’s not debatable at this point that West Virginia is the best defense in the Big 12, and ranks 34th nationally in stopping the run. The 3-3-5 defensive scheme also poses a challenge for pass protection and could consistently disrupt OU’s rhythm if the Sooners don’t start strong. Rasul Douglas and the WVU secondary is disciplined and will at least limit, and possibly contain, the Sooners’ explosive downfield passing attack. Dede Westbrook will have to take advantage of the few times he finds himself wide open, as he’ll be hounded all night by the play-making defensive backfield of the Mountaineers.
The crowd will be drunk, vulgar and loud, and nothing would deflate them more than an early Oklahoma touchdown. A heavy dose of Perine is to be expected to control the clock and crowd the rest of the game, and hopefully OU doesn’t find itself down early to enable an aggressive WVU pass rush that forces Baker Mayfield into turnovers or failed third-down conversions. Controlling clock and crowd is crucial, and it may be the Sooners who lean on a more conservative approach than the Mountaineers on this occasion.
On the other side, the Mountaineers’ offense could light up the Sooners this evening. Though I expect both teams to consistently utilize the run, this game is ripe for an OU defensive implosion. Shelton Gibson is capable of a Jonathan Giles-like performance, and no one needs to be reminded of Dana Holgorsen’s creativity in getting the ball in his playmakers’ hands. But the Mountaineers have turned the ball over 16 times this season, including four last week against Texas. Maybe even OU’s defensive backs can coral a pick or two against Skyler Howard.
I doubt I’m the only one who feels the Mike Stoops comments on Charles Walker this past week could’ve further divided an already terrible defense. This could be something to keep an eye on, as it truly appears like Mike may again be losing his defense, akin to the 2014 season. A turnover or two could prove to be the difference. Just ask WVU after their trip to Stillwater. All the playoff talk and momentum that has Sooner Nation buzzing only further revs up an underrated, overlooked West Virginia squad with an enormous chip on its’ upset-minded shoulders.
Dana knows how to hurt a Mike Stoops defense. Only this year’s team features the best defense he’s had since arriving in Morgantown. Many of us had this date circled even before the season, before we knew how good this WVU team would be. This could finally be the night Dana’s Mountaineers get it done against Bob’s Sooners.
But OU ultimately survives in Morgantown to keep the Schooner rolling.
OU - 35, WVU - 31
Wow, Florida just beat LSU in Baton Rouge! This means the Sooners will avoid the Tigers in a potential Sugar Bowl matchup. This is a true reason to celebrate. My pre-gaming for this evening begins now.
Ohio State just escaped against Sparty on the road, but the Buckeyes clearly look beatable at this stage of the season. The Pokes, as expected, took care of business in Fort Worth.
But I am excited to see the Cougars and Buffs battle in Boulder. Mike Leach’s Wazoo squad is unbeaten in conference play and to no one’s surprise is among the nation’s best offenses, while Colorado is arguably the Pac-12’s best defense. I’m feeling a shootout here, which the Buffs ultimately hold on to win.
Colorado – 42, Washington State - 38
I’ll leave you with a look back at Samaje Perine in Morgantown from two seasons ago. Maybe the alternate unis will be a charm this time around, too. Boomer!