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Oklahoma Football vs. West Virginia: Game preview, storylines & predictions

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OU is 8-0 versus WVU since the Mountaineers joined the Big 12 Conference in 2012.

NCAA FOOTBALL: OCT 03 West Virginia at Oklahoma Photo by Stephen P. O’Brien/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Let the six-time Big 12 title defense begin! This weekend at the Palace on the Prairie, under the lights, Lincoln Riley and his No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners (3-0) will host Neal Brown and his West Virginia Mountaineers (2-1) to open conference play. OU hasn’t looked incredibly sharp to start the 2021 season, but with another game comes another opportunity.

In case you missed it, if you plan on going to the game, make sure your phone battery is charged come kick-off, because OU wants to do a special ‘Light up the Night’ presentation where all the fans hold up their devices and shine their flashlights at the same time. It should look great in-person and on television, so do your part and spread the word.

On Friday, Oklahoma officially revealed the alternate uniform combination the players will be donning this Saturday night. Personally, I’m a big fan of the white helmet/black stripe look. Boomer!

Date, Time & TV: Saturday, Sept. 25 at 6:30 p.m. CT on ABC

Line: Oklahoma -17 (as of Friday at 4 p.m. CT)

O/U: 56.5

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Major Storylines

Long time, no see, West Virginia

The last time Oklahoma played WVU on the football field, Jalen Hurts was OU’s quarterback, as was Austin Kendall for the Mountaineers (he now starts for Louisiana Tech). Also, the iconic Sooner Schooner took a tumble that thankfully looked scarier than it turned out to be.

That game was all the way back in 2019. Last season, these two teams were originally scheduled to play once again, but COVID-19 related issues eventually led to the contest’s cancellation. Ultimately, it worked out fairly well for both squads, but especially Oklahoma, who still made it back to the Big 12 Championship Game and claimed a sixth consecutive conference title.

After being forced to take a break in the series last year, it will be interesting to see how Lincoln Riley’s group matches up with Neal Brown, who is now in his third year in Morgantown despite only facing the champs once thus far.

Can Spencer Rattler throw his way out of his funk?

After seeing how Rattler finished the 2020 season, a lot was expected of the now redshirt sophomore coming into 2021. Although he’s not playing terribly by any measure, he has made some questionable decisions with the ball that are eerily reminiscent of his erratic play as a young starter last September.

If this team wants to achieve all of its goals, including winning the Big 12, returning to the College Football Playoff and advancing to the national championship game, Rattler will have to take the next step in his progression as a quarterback. Fortunately, he’ll have a prime opportunity to show he’s making those moves in the right direction against a capable West Virginia defense.

Watch out for backup WVU QB Garrett Greene

West Virginia’s starting redshirt senior QB Jarret Doege has a live arm, but it’s no secret that his greatest weakness is making plays with his legs. That’s where backup QB Garrett Greene comes in. In two games this season, the redshirt freshman has amassed 126 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns on 18 carries (7.0 average yards per carry). Now, at 5’10 and 193 pounds, he’s not a physically imposing threat as a runner, but he’s agile enough to pick up a first down or more with the ball in his hands. Oklahoma’s D-line and linebackers need to stay alert when No. 6 comes in on offense, because it’s highly likely that they’ll see plenty of Greene in some key situations on Saturday.

Turnovers & Takeaways

One stat that may come as a surprise is the stark difference in turnovers between Oklahoma and West Virginia. Entering this weekend, the Sooners have an impressive turnover margin of (+5), which is tied for 7th nationally. On the other side, the Mountaineers have a TO margin of (-6), which is near the very bottom of the FBS at 127th. If OU continues to take care of the ball while also creating extra possessions for itself, and if WVU continues to plague itself with mistakes of this variety, it’s going to be an extremely long night for the ‘Eers.

Something has to give in the red zone

Coming into college football’s Week Four, Oklahoma’s offense is No. 1 in the nation when it comes to scoring in the red zone (for teams with greater than 15 attempts). The Sooners come up empty only once out of 18 tries after reaching the opposition’s 20-yard line. Meanwhile, West Virginia’s defense also ranks 1st in the red zone, as they’ve let just four of 11 total red zone trips result in points, including a mere two touchdowns

Whenever OU breaches the red zone this weekend, something will have to give. Keep an eye on if those drives in particular are ending in points, and if they are, take note on if those points are from the end zone or the uprights.

Prediction

Ask any Sooner fan, and they’ll tell you Spencer Rattler and Lincoln Riley haven’t exactly looked like the peak versions of themselves through three games. I see that shift beginning to turn this weekend against West Virginia. Although the Mountaineers’ defense is a respectable unit, I predict they’ll be walking into a buzz saw after last week’s poor showing against Nebraska left a lot to be desired. Defensively, OU is going to feast in the backfield, but WVU’s Garrett Greene and Leddie Brown will cause enough problems to make things interesting. In the end, I predict this to be Oklahoma’s most complete performance from start to finish (not counting the Western Carolina paycheck game). After the game, the talk and concerns about Rattler will come to a whisper, and all will be right in the world.

Oklahoma 41, West Virginia 17

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