The Oklahoma State Cowboys are set to travel the long distance to Morgantown for a Big 12 showdown with the West Virginia Mountaineers Saturday.
Oklahoma State bounced back from its first loss of the season with a dominant 55-3 win over Kansas last week and improved to 7-1 overall and 4-1 in conference play in the process. The Pokes were also ranked No. 11 in the initial College Football Playoff Rankings, meaning they have everything still to play for despite the 24-21 loss to Iowa State two weeks ago.
West Virginia also got back into the win column (its second in a row after a three-game losing streak) with a 38-31 victory over Iowa State. The win brings the Mountaineers to 4-4, including a 2-3 mark in the league.
No. 11 Oklahoma State at West Virginia
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 6 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Oklahoma State -3
When Oklahoma State Has the Ball
Quarterback Spencer Sanders has struggled with consistency during his three-year career as the Cowboys starting quarterback, but he has played very well in back-to-back games, completing a combined 27 of 43 pass attempts (62.8 percent) for 382 passing yards and five touchdowns without an interception, as well as rushing for 82 yards and a score. He has 1,333 passing yards and 11 touchdowns with five picks and a 59.6 percent completion rate in addition to 298 rushing yards and four scores on the ground.
Sanders has built a solid rapport with receiver Tay Martin, who leads the Pokes with 36 receptions and 529 yards, which includes three 100-yard performances this year. Martin also has four touchdown grabs, second only to the team’s second-leading receiver, Brennan Presley, who has five among his 23 receptions and 292 yards. Redshirt freshman Rashod Owens has 16 receptions for 232 yards and one touchdown, and running back Jaylen Warren has provided 148 yards on 13 catches out of the backfield.
Warren has also emerged as the team’s workhorse. He has gained 850 rushing yards and six touchdowns on 175 carries and ranks fifth in the Big 12 with 106.3 yards per game. Injuries have limited the production of other Oklahoma State running backs, and only Dominic Richardson (147 yds., TD) has more than 30 attempts among others on the depth chart.
When West Virginia Has the Ball
Jarret Doege has also taken his game to a higher level recently. Doege was picked off twice in the win over Iowa State, but he set a season high in attempts (46), completions (30), and passing yards (370) and matched his single-game high of three touchdowns. The 370 passing yards were the most for Doege in a Mountaineers uniform and fell just nine yards short of the career high he set at Bowling Green in 2018. The senior leads the Big 12 in passing at 258.9 yards per game and 2,071 yards overall. He has completed 66.3 percent of his passes and posted an 11:7 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Doege has spread the ball around to one of the deepest sets of receivers in the Big 12. Winston Wright Jr. leads the Mountaineers with 42 receptions and 523 yards and has one touchdown catch. Bryce Ford-Wheaton (31 rec., 435 yds.) and Sam James (25, 327) are tied for the team lead with three touchdowns, and Sean Ryan (14, 253) is close behind with a pair of touchdown grabs. Isaiah Esdale has also emerged in recent weeks and has 26 catches for 343 yards with one score on the season. WVU lost tight end Mike O'Laughlin (11 rec., 65 yds.) to a season-ending injury recently, but T.J. Banks could have a bigger role in the passing attack after grabbing three passes for 34 yards last week.
Running back Leddie Brown is the sixth West Virginia player with more than 100 receiving yards and one of five with more than 20 receptions, but he’s at his best running between the tackles. Brown has 642 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on 141 carries as a senior, and though no other running back on the roster has surpassed 100 yards on the ground, the Mountaineers have been creative to find touches for backup quarterback Garrett Greene. His 41 carries for 300 yards and four scores all rank second behind Brown on the WVU rushing leaderboard.
West Virginia has other winnable games on the schedule, but picking up an upset victory over the Cowboys would go a long way towards bowl eligibility. Oklahoma State is tied with Baylor for second place in the Big 12 and holds the tiebreaker over the Bears following the 24-14 victory last month. If the Cowboys win out, they’ll play for the league title and potentially a College Football Playoff spot. In other words, neither team is lacking motivation.
However, one has a clearly subpar defense, statistically speaking. West Virginia has allowed an average of 6.06 yards per play and 8.4 yards per pass against FBS opponents, which ranks 89th and 103rd nationally, respectively. The Mountaineers have surrendered 2.21 points per drive in non-garbage time against FBS opponents, as well as a 43.8 percent success rate, which ranks 64th and 76th, respectively. By contrast, the Cowboys rank 13th in yards per play (4.75) and 41st in yards per pass (6.9), as well as 11th in points per drive (1.34) and 31st in success rate (38.8 percent).
An edge on defense coupled with a quarterback playing his best football should be enough for Oklahoma State to overcome a long trip and West Virginia’s home-field advantage.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 30, West Virginia 25
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