West Virginia comes into Stillwater undefeated and trying to move to 7-0 for the first time since 2006 when Rich Rodriguez was still the head coach. This is a West Virginia team that has dominated their last two opponents and comes in ranked number 9 and 10 in the Coaches and AP poll, respectively.
Oklahoma State, on the other hand, comes into this game remembering last year’s homecoming tragedy where four people lost their lives. No doubt that emotion will play into this game. If they can put together their best game of the year, they have the talent to beat anyone, including West Virginia.
This series dates all the way back to 1928 and West Virginia holds the series record at 4-3. They have split all four games in recent history, each winning one at home and one on the road. Last year, Oklahoma State pulled out a thriller in overtime against the Mountaineers with J.W. Walsh scoring on a 2-yard run on 4th down to put the Cowboys ahead. There will be no Walsh to bail the Cowboys out this year as West Virginia’s defense, led by Justin Arndt comes in to slow down a Cowboy offense that has struggled early in games. West Virginia comes in as the favorite and rightfully so after holding Texas Tech to 17 points in Lubbock, we all know how hard that is (See: Oklahoma vs. Tech), and TCU to just 10 points in back to back games.
Date/Time: Saturday, October 29, 11:00 AM CST
Where: Boone Pickens Stadium (Stillwater, Ok)
Forecast: Partly Cloudy, SW Winds at 13 mph, 75° F
Betting Line: West Virginia -3.5, O/U 65
#10 West Virginia Mountaineers (6-0)
Last week West Virginia handily defeated TCU 34-10, capitalizing on three TCU turnovers and keeping the Frogs’ quarterback in check. The Mountaineers held TCU to just 18% conversion rate on 3rd down and even though the stats were pretty even yardage wise the defense showed up on 3rd down and forced three turnovers. It’s hard to lose when you win the turnover battle and they can’t stay on the field. Their modern twist on the 3-4 defense, sometimes called the 8-3, has been giving Big 12 offensive coordinators fits. They will try to confuse OSU quarterback, Mason Rudolph, this week and may have some success getting to him, as he is not real mobile and their offensive line is not real good.
West Virginia comes in this week still playing the role of outside looking in on the college football playoffs. This week they are trying to turn some more heads as they go on the road to play a tough Oklahoma State team. Of course, it’s always a story when a coach returns to play against his former employer, both Head Coach Dana Holgorsen and Offensive Coordinator Joe Wickline were on the staff at Oklahoma Stat, but for the first time WVU comes in playing for a Big 12 title and to try to keep their hopes alive for the college football playoffs. There is a lot riding on the shoulders of the Mountaineers as they are the Big 12’s best hope for reaching the college football playoff. But they seem up to the challenge so far.
Keys to the Game for WVU
Pass Defense – West Virginia comes in allowing 233 passing yards a game good for fourth in the Big 12. But keep in mind that they have played Texas Tech and TCU which are good passing teams. Oklahoma State makes their money through the air. Take that away from them and they have a hard time winning games.
Get Up Early – West Virginia needs to come out slinging and get an early lead. Oklahoma State has gotten off to a slow start coming from behind to win against Kansas and Iowa State. If West Virginia gets up early it will be too much for the Pokes to overcome.
Control the Tempo – The Mountaineers come in averaging 206 yards a game on the ground. If they can control the tempo of this game and not let the Cowboy offense get into a rhythm, then they could win big.
Oklahoma State Cowboys (5-2)
Oklahoma State comes in at 5-2 with only one loss in conference. They have had two disappointing losses against Central Michigan and Baylor. Both were winnable games and Mike Gundy even refuses to admit that they lost to Central Michigan.
Oklahoma State comes in after a close game, turned blowout against Kansas last week and finds themselves in the middle of a three game winning streak. Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph had an average game, completing 16 of 24 passes for 220 yards and a touchdown. Kansas was dedicated to stopping wide receiver James Washington who had 1 catch for 9 yards. OSU was still able to get the win on the road by 24. Despite already playing a higher ranked Baylor team this will be the Cowboys toughest test so far. West Virginia has a great defense that will be able to play with the Cowboys plethora of wide receivers. Oklahoma State has put together some pretty good running performances lately and its going to be crucial in this game. Look for Justice Hill to have another big game.
And all though it may not seem like it to some, they still may have a shot to win the Big 12 with a little help from some other teams. The road back into the picture starts this week, they have to win this game to have any chance at the Big 12 title. If they can win out and someone beats Baylor (who still has to play WVU and Oklahoma) then the title is theirs lose this one and it gets a lot harder.
Keys to the Game for OSU
Keep Rudolph Off the Turf – Rudolph has been sacked a lot this year, in fact the Cowboys are 121st in the country in number of sacks allowed, and if you don’t know there are only 128 teams. In order for them to have a chance against this West Virginia defense they are going to have to do a better job protecting him, so he can find those explosive wide receivers.
Turnovers – Oklahoma State is #9 in the country in turnover margin forcing 16 turnovers while only turning it over 9 times. If they can get the ball back from WVU and capitalize on it that will keep them in the game, giving them a chance to pull off the upset.
Long Drives – Last week the WV defense held TCU to 2 of 11 on 3rd down. If OSU is going to have success in this game they need to stay on the field and give their defense a chance to rest. They showed in the Baylor game that they can put together long drives and they need that to happen again to give them a chance to win this game.
After seeing what West Virginia has done to teams the last two weeks I can’t help but think that they are going to come away with the win. They have been defensive juggernauts in a conference that obviously does not believe in defense. Oklahoma State on the other hand is a team that has the potential to be good, if they come out and get going on offense then the rest of the game could come together for them. But this being an early game helps West Virginia out and they come in hot after back-to-back wins one of which was against a pretty comparable team to Oklahoma State, last week in TCU. I know it’s not a popular choice but I like Oklahoma States chances at home with a West Virginia team that thinks they are going to come in and beat this team easily. I’ll take Oklahoma State, they win it 31-28 in a barn burner.