After an emotional win, will the Sooners overlook Mountaineers?
With the Oklahoma Sooners coming off an emotional win over the Texas Longhorns, the West Virginia Mountaineers may find themselves walking into a buzzsaw in Norman this weekend. The 33-point spread for the matchup suggests just that.
Maybe WVU can catch OU in a flat spot? It's easy to imagine the Sooners sleepwalking against a squad that lost by 24 points to the Iowa State Cyclones a week ago.
That may be the Eers' only hope to knock off the top team in the Big 12 when the two programs square off on Saturday. Here's what to watch.
West Virginia at Oklahoma
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 19 at 12 p.m. ET
Spread: Oklahoma -33
When Oklahoma Has the Ball
Senior quarterback Jalen Hurts showed the first signs of concern about his game last week versus Texas. One of his turnovers involved a terrible decision to throw across his body to the middle of the field, which is a cardinal sin in quarterbacking. He also avoided disaster on a handful of other passes that were begging to be picked off.
West Virginia has to capitalize on a few of those miscues if it has any hope of competing with the Sooners in this game. Getting OU into passing downs would improve the Mountaineers' chances.
Of course, doing that means slowing down the Sooners' road-grading ground attack, which is averaging 7.7 yards per rush. The WVU defense has played above its head this season, but it seems unlikely that the Eers will be the ones to put a roadblock in front of that rushing attack.
When West Virginia Has the Ball
The return of WVU QB Austin Kendall to Norman once made for an intriguing storyline with this game. Head coach Neal Brown has said Kendall won't play unless he is at full strength, and that seems unlikely at this point after the OU transfer left last week's game versus Iowa State with a chest injury. Backup Jack Allison took over for Kendall versus ISU, but the Eers might turn to redshirt freshman Trey Lowe this week.
That would put Lowe in a difficult situation, facing an OU defensive line that has turned up the heat on opposing passers. The Sooners have 22 sacks through six games this year, well ahead of their 2018 pace of 29 in 14 games.
Brown may use misdirection and delayed handoffs to take advantage of OU's aggressiveness. No matter what, keeping Lowe from taking too much of a beating will be paramount.
On its face, this game feels like a "name the score" situation for the home team. West Virginia is reeling from injuries and attrition in Neal Brown's first season. The Mountaineers are playing hard for the first-year coaching staff, but that only takes a team so far.
OU head coach Lincoln Riley would surely like to give his backups an opportunity to play on Saturday after shortening the playing rotations versus Texas. He'll look for chances to blow the game open early and get his starters to the bench as soon as possible.
WVU will oblige him if the Eers and young QB Trey Lowe don't take care of the ball against an OU defense that emphasizes creating turnovers. If the Sooners can't generate takeaways, especially early, the chances of OU covering the thick point spread decline dramatically.
Keep an eye out for a late score by WVU to bring the final margin inside the line. This game won't be in doubt in the second half, though.
Prediction: Oklahoma 45, West Virginia 17
— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.