Five Big 12 teams are now ranked in the AP Top 25 and two of them face off in this weekend’s Oklahoma State-West Virginia game in what should be a points-aplenty game between two high-octane offenses.
And yes, I realize this comes on the heels of the Cowboys scoring just 13 points in their overtime win vs. Texas last Saturday. But I promise you this one won’t end in a 13-10 score. Opposing QBs Mason Rudolph and Will Grier and those wildly talented receiving corps will keep the scoreboard operator plenty busy I’m sure.
Keep in mind that Rudolph has gotten the best of the Mountaineers the last few years, taking them down twice in his previous two starts, a 37-20 win last year and then a 33-26 overtime victory in in the last visit to Morgantown in 2015. But Grier, a Florida transfer, has acclimated quite well to the Blue & Gold offense and has the Mountaineers on an uptick as they head into the meat of their schedule.
Mike Gundy and Dana Holgorsen are two head coaches who never shy away from imagination and innovation when it comes to their offensive game plans. Both teams are talented to the hilt and should put on a good show. Buckle in, this one will be fun to watch.
Oklahoma State at West Virginia
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 28 at 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ABC
Spread: Oklahoma State -7.5
Three Things to Watch
1. The confidence factor
As mentioned above, this game will feature two hyper-talented field generals who can short-circuit any scoreboard with impressive alacrity. Mason Rudolph leads the nation passing yards per game (378.6) and tied his head coach Mike Gundy in career victories at OSU with last week’s win over Texas (he is now 28-7 as a starter). But Will Grier is no slouch either, leading the FBS with 26 touchdown passes with just five interceptions so far and also posting a school-record seven straight 300-yard games. Though both can be streaky, the flinger that comes out and establishes a rhythm and confidence early will be key. In OSU’s case, it also will quell what should be a raucous opposing crowd.
2. Defense, plain and simple
With these two offenses and their firepower you’d figure defense was a four-letter word here. But as we saw last weekend, when it mattered, the Cowboys could bow up their necks and put the clamps on somebody, holding Texas to 10 points and 283 total yards. Overall, the Pokes are 41st nationally, relenting just 357 yards per game. The Mountaineer defense, on the other hand, is ranked way down at No. 111 (460.0 ypg) but have to be looking at the success that Texas had in pressuring Rudolph last week and chomping at the bit to face the Pokes and their injury-depleted O-line. But the Mountaineers also have given up 34, 31, 35 and 36 points in their last four games, which included Big 12 bottom-dwellers Kansas and Baylor. That’s a red flag considering the potential that OSU’s offense possesses.
3. The running game
While a lot of attention will be paid to the dynamic receiver matchup of OSU’s James Washington, Marcell Ateman and Jalen McClesky vs. WVU’s David Sills, Gary Jennings and Ka’Raun White, keep in mind that the game could be decided by whichever team has the more effective running game. Cowboys running back Justice Hill has posted four straight 100-yard games but was held to just 3.5 yards per carry vs. Texas. Mountaineers running back Justin Crawford ran for 1,184 yards last season but has just 77 yards in the last two weeks where WVU struggled to escape upset bids vs. Texas Tech and Baylor. Whichever team establishes a consistent rushing attack and can control the clock will have a huge advantage.
This game could be labeled “Elimination Saturday” in Morgantown. Both teams come into this weekend with a 3-1 record in Big 12 play, so it goes without saying another loss for either nearly assures elimination from a spot in the revived Big 12 Championship Game. TCU is at the top at 4-0, but there is a four-way logjam at second place with the Pokes, the ‘Neers, Oklahoma and Iowa State all sitting a game behind.
Something tells me OSU is going to “wake up” offensively this week after last week’s lethargic, pedestrian and pass-dropping effort in Austin. I mean, when was the last time uber-talented future NFLer James Washington was held to four catches for just 32 yards? That’s what happened in last week’s Texas game. His mano-a-mano stat challenge with touchdown-maker David Sills of West Virginia should be a beauty to watch. But there are stars all over the field in this one.
The big difference comes in the two defenses. Neither is of the blue ribbon variety here, but the better defense will get the W.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 42, West Virginia 28
— Written by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.
(Top photo courtesy of wvusports.com)