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West Virginia Moutaineers vs. Oklahoma Sooners Preview and Prediction

Damien Williams

Damien Williams

50-49. That was the score of last year's shootout in Morgantown that saw the Sooners escape with a win. The game featured 1,440 yards of total offense, 62 first downs and 14 total touchdowns.

This year will look significantly different, as the returning players from last season's game accounted for just 16 percent of those 1,400 yards. Both programs, not used to uncertainty at the quarterback, are in a period of transition. The Sooners have had either Sam Bradford or Landry Jones under center since 2007, while the Mountaineers are in the process of trying to replace the school's all-time leading passer in Geno Smith.

Bob Stoops has decided to put the Sooners fate in the arm of Trevor Knight, and Dana Holgorsen has chosen Paul Millard as his starter. Each quarterback decision comes as a surprise as junior Blake "Belldozer" Bell, who has 24 rushing touchdowns the past two seasons, was expected to take the reins in Norman. Mountaineers' fans were excited at the news of the transfer of Florida State quarterback Clint Trickett as he appeared to be their best option for replacing Smith; however, Millard's two years of experience in Holgorsen's system helped win him the job.

These two teams have met eight times, with Oklahoma owning a 3-2 series edge. The Sooners and Mountaineers have only played three times since 1983.

These two teams have met eight times, with LSU owning a 5-2-1 series edge. The Horned Frogs and Tigers have not played since 1968.
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Three Things to Watch

West Virginia's rushing attack

With inexperience at quarterback, the Mountaineers will rely on Houston transfer RB Charles Sims. Sims was impressive in his debut, rushing for 120 yards on 23 carries. The Mountaineers offensive line could be in trouble as they looked overmatched at times against William & Mary. The Sooners defense looks stellar, especially against the run as they allowed just 38 rushing yards to Louisiana-Monroe. If Sims finds running room, it will give West Virginia a chance to control the clock and dictate the tempo. 

Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight

It will be important for the Sooners to get the freshman in rhythm early.  He went 7-of-21 passing in the first half for 42 yards. Three of his throws were batted down at the line and another was nearly intercepted in the end zone. While he threw three touchdown passes, he finished 11 of 28 for 86 yards, a total not seen since the Barry Switzer days. Knight does add a threat with his legs, becoming the first Sooners quarterback to rush for 100 yards in a game since Jason White in 2001. Expect lots of short, quick-hitting routes early to get Knight comfortable and confident.

Dana Holgorsen's handling of his quarterbacks

Regardless of how much playing time Holgorsen gives Millard versus Trickett, the Mountaineers coach has seemingly altered his offensive approach - at least for now. Last week, Holgorsen used an usually heavy reliance on the running game, which took pressure off of Millard to win the game with his arm. In fact, his 25 pass attempts were the fewest for a Holgorsen starter since he became a Division I coach in 2000. Holgorsen said he'd like to pass the ball more, but will the offensive guru trust Millard's arm against a much stiffer Oklahoma defense?

Key Player: Corey Nelson, LB, Oklahoma

Nelson didn't play much in last year's matchup as Bob Stoops decided to play with seven defensive backs against spread teams like West Virginia. The Sooners defense gave up a school record 778 yards. Nelson and the linebackers are back as a major focus of the Oklahoma defense. Nelson serves as the leader and anchor of a defense that allowed just 166 total yards last week in a shutout victory over Louisiana-Monroe. He led the Sooners with eight tackles and a sack. Expect more of the same against a weak Mountaineers offensive line.

Final Analysis

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West Virginia barely escaped catastrophe against William & Mary, while the Sooners rolled over Louisiana-Monroe. Both offenses struggled with consistency in the passing game. Shockingly, two of the most pass-happy programs of the last few years, now find their strength in the running game. I think it will be the Sooners defense, and their stingy play against the run that gives them the edge in this game. This year will be a relatively low-scoring affair, coming nowhere close to the shootout from a season ago.


Oklahoma 27, West Virginia, 10

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These two teams have met eight times, with LSU owning a 5-2-1 series edge. The Horned Frogs and Tigers have not played since 1968.
- See more at: