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West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys Prediction and Preview

West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys Prediction and Preview

West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys Prediction and Preview

Next up on the West Virginia Mountaineers’ march to a potential Big 12 championship: the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

Since losing to Iowa State last month, WVU has run off three consecutive wins over Baylor, Texas and TCU. The Mountaineers now sit at 8-1 on the season with just two games left to go in Big 12 play. A win this week in Stillwater will set up the Big 12 game of the year on Black Friday when Oklahoma pays a visit to Morgantown.

If OSU’s performance last week against OU is any indication, the Mountaineers can’t overlook this week’s game dreaming of bigger stages to come.

West Virginia at Oklahoma State

Kickoff: Saturday, Nov.17 at 3:30 p.m. ET

TV: ABC

Spread: West Virginia -5

Three Things to Watch

1. Does Oklahoma State have anything left in the tank?

The Cowboys took part in an epic installment of the Bedlam rivalry last week, falling 48-47 to the Sooners in a shootout. It was a commendable showing as a massive underdog to OU, but the result had to sting afterwards.

Laying an egg in the follow-up to a game such as that happens all the time in college football. Given how well West Virginia is playing right now, the Pokes can’t afford to come out flat.

2. West Virginia’s run defense

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The Mountaineers’ lackluster rushing defense played a big part in their only loss of the year. Iowa State pounded WVU 47 times on the ground for 244 yards, averaging more than five yards per attempt. The ball-control strategy limited the number of possessions available to WVU’s explosive offense and made the Mountaineers predictable as time ran short.

Oklahoma State doesn’t have quite the physical presence of a running back like the Cyclones' David Montgomery to lean on in the ground game. Justice Hill and Chuba Hubbard can carry a big load, though, and quarterback Taylor Cornelius keeps defenses honest with his ability to grind out hard yards when called upon. As a team, the Cowboys are averaging 4.8 yards per carry, second in the Big 12.

If WVU allows OSU to repeat ISU’s running success, the Mountaineers will go back home with an L.

3. Protecting Will Grier

As always, pass protection is paramount against Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles’ unit. The Cowboys are tied for third in the nation with 36 sacks. They got to elusive Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray three times last week in OSU’s almost-upset of the Sooners.

Grier tends to get the ball out of his hands quickly, which should help his offensive line keep OSU pass rushers at bay.

Final Analysis

You won’t find many college football teams this year more schizophrenic than Oklahoma State. One week, the Cowboys look like world-beaters against Texas. Another week, OSU is getting rolled by one of the most unimposing Kansas State teams in recent memory.

College Football Top 25 Rankings: WVU

The Pokes played their best ball of the season last week versus Oklahoma. That could be a sign that OSU is peaking to close the year. It also could mean the Cowboys used up the last of their emotional reserves.

Either way, it feels as though how well OSU plays will matter more to the final margin of this game than which team wins. Will Grier and his receiving corps can find all kinds of holes in the Cowboys’ porous defense. Assuming OSU isn’t completely drained, the Pokes could turn the game into a shootout. They will have to live with another close scrape.

Prediction: West Virginia 41, Oklahoma State 35

— 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.