Samaje Perine and the Sooners look to solve the Mountaineers' defense in the Big 12 opener for both teams
WVU could get over that hump this year. The ‘Eers have throttled their first three opponents this year behind a defense that has allowed a paltry 7.7 points per game. Meanwhile, the WVU offense lost some of its star power from last season, but that hasn’t stopped it from continuing to click in a manner befitting coach Dana Holgorsen’s offensive acumen.
After the Sooners dropped three games at Owen Field a year ago, their home-field advantage no longer seems so imposing. If OU repeats the same sloppiness seen in early kickoffs in Norman a year ago, WVU could get an early leg up on the Sooners in the Big 12 race.
College Football Podcast: Week 5 Preview with Andy Staples
West Virginia at Oklahoma
Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: FS1
Spread: Oklahoma -7
Three Things to Watch
1. WVU’s front six against the run
When OU visited Morgantown last year, the Sooners broke the game open in the second half by allowing their offensive line and burly running back Samaje Perine to hammer away at the Mountaineers’ undersized defensive line and linebackers. Perine ended up rumbling for 242 yards and 4 touchdowns on 34 attempts in OU’s 45-33 win.
With the shift to the Air Raid and the insertion of a number of new faces on OU’s offensive line, WVU’s disadvantage at the point of attack won’t be so pronounced. In fact, the ‘Eers might even own the edge there now.
2. Did the OU offense take advantage of the off week?
Bye weeks can affect teams in funny ways. Some get out of sync after not playing for two weeks. Some come back refreshed from the break.
But the extra week often pays the biggest dividends for teams going through a scheme change. With a few games under their belts, they have an idea of what needs work. And with no game prep looming, they can address their problems.
We’ll find out Saturday how well OU offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley utilized his bye week.
“Turnovers, huh? No kidding.”
Except in this case, they’re of particular importance to the ‘Eers, who are plus-nine in turnover margin with 11 takeaways through three games this season. The Sooners, meanwhile, are minus-four in three games.
If the Sooners aren't careful with the ball, WVU will make them pay.
Despite their lack of quality competition, the Mountaineers have done all that can be asked of them so far in dispatching Georgia Southern, Liberty and Maryland by an average of five touchdowns. They have the offensive balance to give OU serious problems, and their veteran secondary is built to slow down the Sooners’ talented receivers.
Ultimately, though, this game should come down to the Sooners’ edge at the skill positions. Between Perine, his backfield mate Joe Mixon, stud wideout Sterling Shepard, matchup nightmare Mark Andrews at flex tight end and the rest of OU’s assortment of weapons, the Sooners can move the ball in a multitude of ways. They can punch and counter punch effectively to address defensive adjustments in a manner that the 'Eers cannot.
Although both defenses have shown signs of promise, don’t be shocked if Holgo and Riley flex their offensive muscles and turn this into a shootout. If so, look for OU’s offensive stars to make a few more big plays than their counterparts from Morgantown, sparking the Sooners to the W.
Prediction: Oklahoma 42, West Virginia 34
— 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.