On paper these two teams have a lot in common. Both Oklahoma State and West Virginia are have mascots that shoot guns. Both schools are top five in total offense and scoring offense. Both schools boast a Heisman hopeful at quarterback, Mason Rudolph and Will Grier, as well as legitimate Biletnikoff contenders in James Washington and David Sills V.
What maybe binds these schools together the most ahead of their tilt on Saturday is that a loss for either school will all but put them on the outside of not only the Big 12 Championship game, but also the College Football Playoff. If either school wants to hold out hope for those two games, then coming away with a victory on Saturday is a must.
DATE & TIME: SAT, OCT 28, 11:00 AM CT
LOCATION: Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, WV
FORECAST: Light Rain and 58 Degrees
BETTING LINE: OSU -7
OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS (6-1, 3-1)
Oklahoma State comes into this game having narrowly escaped with a win in Austin last week against the Longhorns. Surprisingly, it was the defense that saved the day for Oklahoma State, as their offense was only able to score 10 points in regulation. Overall though this season has been defined by the prolific offense being helmed by Mason Rudolph. Before last week’s game the lowest amount of points that the Cowboys had scored all season was 31, and that was in a loss to TCU. In all of their other victories the Cowboys have scored at least 41 points.
The biggest reason that the Cowboys have been able to score with such ease this season is because of the sheer number of weapons on offense. At running back sophomore Justice Hill and freshman J.D. King have combined for over 1,000 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. Each back is also average over 5 yards per carry, and each back has a touchdown over 70 yards long. It’s not the rushing attack though that strikes the most fear into opposing defenses. It’s what they can do through the air. James Washington is the headliner for the Oklahoma State receiving core. Washington has over 900 receiving yards already this season, six touchdowns, and is averaging over 24 yards per catch. It doesn’t just end there though, Marcell Ateman, and Jalen McClesky each have over 30 receptions, and over 400 yards receiving as well.
The one weak spot on this offense is in their offensive line. They have had to deal with some injuries this year, and that was exploited in their game against TCU. The TCU defense was able to put pressure on Rudolph without bringing extra men on a blitz. If there is a spot to really attack the OSU offense, its at their offensive line. Rudolph has already been sacked ten times this year, and you know that Defensive Coordinator Tony Gibson and that West Virginia defense will be trying to add to that number.
Defensively, Oklahoma State has actually been a little better than people might think. Oklahoma State is currently 40th in the nation in total defense, Top 20 in opponents yards per play, and have been holding opposing offenses to just 3.3 yards per carry. Some names to keep an eye on are Tre Flowers and Dequinton Osborne. Flowers is the leading tackler for OSU on the season, but also has two interceptions. Osborne doesn’t have many stats to boast about, but from his defensive tackle position, has been able to clog the running lanes of many opposing offenses.
If there is one area that Oklahoma State really needs to improve defensively, and it’s getting off the field on third down. Currently teams are converting right around 41 percent of their third down attempts, which ranks Oklahoma State as the 87th best team in the nation at third down stops. West Virginia has a potent offense, and if Oklahoma State allows them to sustain drives then it could be a long day for the Cowboys.
WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS (5-2, 3-1)
West Virginia has been one of the more confusing teams to try to figure out this year if you look strictly at their results. They have two losses on the season to Virginia Tech and TCU. Both of those teams are ranked in the top 13 of the most recent AP poll, and both of those losses were only by a touchdown. On the flip side of that though, West Virginia needed a furious 4th quarter comeback to beat Texas Tech, and allowed Baylor to come within a failed two-point conversion of sending their game to overtime. West Virginia clearly has a ton of talent, but so far this season they haven’t been able to put it all together for an entire game. On Saturday they will face a team in Oklahoma State that is too good for them to not play a complete game and expect to win.
Offensively West Virginia has two of the biggest names in college football right now, Will Grier at quarterback and David Sills V at wide receiver. Through seven games this year Grier has thrown for 2,467 yards, as well as throwing for a nation leading 26 touchdown passes. If he stays on this pace, Grier will throw for over 4,000 yards and over 40 touchdowns. Sills V has a well documented past for getting an early offer from USC as a middle schooler, but has now finally made a name for himself at West Virginia. Sills V has fifteen touchdown receptions on the season, which not only leads all receivers for touchdown catches, but leads all players in touchdowns. Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson is right behind him with fourteen on his own. Despite the well documented success that this duo has had so far this season, no team has been able to slow them down. Sills V has had ten of his fifteen touchdown receptions in the last four games.
Defensively this is a team that has slowly started to find an identity, but still has lots of holes to fill. West Virginia uses a unique defensive alignment using a 3-3-5. One of the main advantages of using a 3-3-5 is that it allows for a lot of different blitzes from unique and different angles. Not surprisingly this is a staple of the West Virginia defense. Against TCU this was their preferred method of attacking the offense. They blitzed Kenny Hill repeatedly in an effort to force him into quick decisions, and not allow for multiple reads. I believe that West Virginia will try a similar strategy against Mason Rudolph on Saturday. There is no secret that Rudolph can throw one of the best deep balls in all of college football, but those take some time to develop. If West Virginia is blitzing repeatedly it cuts down on the time for Rudolph to get the ball out.
Two names to keep an eye on for this defense are Kyzir White and David Long. White is the definition of a heat-seeking missile. White plays safety for the Mountaineers, but don’t be surprised to see him all over the field. White is the second leading tackler for the Mountaineers so far this season, and has an interception and a forced fumble. David Long missed the first four games of the season, but since coming back has been an important piece to the defense. Long is a little undersized for his linebacker position at 5-foot-11, but more than makes up for it with his quickness and speed.
KEYS TO THE GAME FOR OSU
ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK – Despite all the success that Oklahoma State has had offensively throughout the years, the one main criticism I hear at times is that Gundy can be a little quick to take his foot off the gas pedal. In a game against an offense as potent as West Virginia he won’t be able to afford to do that.
ACCOUNT FOR SILLS – While West Virginia has a very capable receiving core outside of Sills V, its clear that Grier and Sills V have developed an incredible connection. The Oklahoma State defense has to account for Sills V at all times, particularly in the red zone.
KEEP RUDOLPH UPRIGHT – West Virginia is going to be blitzing early and often on Saturday. Regardless of how patchwork your offensive line is Oklahoma State has to find a way to protect him. If that means keeping a back in to block then so be it, but its imperative that Rudolph have time to throw.
KEYS TO THE GAME FOR WVU
FEED CRAWFORD – Oklahoma State showed that they can be run on in the TCU game. Justin Crawford is averaging over 6 yards per carry. By running Crawford with consistency it should open up passing lanes later in the game.
STAY ON SCHEDULE – Oklahoma State has one of the best quick strike offenses in the country. They can cover any amount of yardage in one play. That is why its important for the West Virginia offense to sustain drives. In order to do that they need to make sure they are picking up yardage with consistency on 1st and 2nd down.
FORCE FIELD GOALS – One huge area of weakness so far for Oklahoma State is their kicking game. Kicker Matt Ammendola has missed five field goals so far this season, including three that were 30 yards or shorter. If you can force field goals, there is a decent shot at Ammendola missing, and if he doesn’t it’s still better than giving up a touchdown.
The spread is Oklahoma State -7 right now, and to be honest that feels a little high to me. The West Virginia defense was dealing with a lot of injuries to start the year, but now they are back to full health. On top of that they have one of the most dynamic offenses in the country, and they are getting to play this game at home.
That being said, Oklahoma State has THE most dynamic offense in the country to me, and we haven’t really seen a complete game from West Virginia this year. The three quarter no show against Texas Tech, and the fourth quarter collapse against Baylor are a real cause for concern.
I think West Virginia will cover, but that Oklahoma State will still win the game in close one.