OU had a week to get healthy, work on covering the spread, figure out how to run the ball, and look at West Virginia film. The number 23 Mountaineers come into Saturday’s game supporting a 3 and 0 record, averaging 43 points per game and 543 yards of total offense. A challenge for a Mike Stoops defense that just gave up 603 to Tulsa. If you only look at the numbers, OU’s defense is pretty good. The Sooners give up 22 points and 361 yards per game. But The Golden Hurricane was a sharp reminder of how many issues OU can have with high power offenses. The Sooners will have to find a way to pressure WVU quarterback Skyler Howard. On the season, he’s completed 69% of his passes for 916 yards, giving up only one interception to his nine touchdowns. Against Maryland, Howard threw for almost 300 and four touchdowns. Howard’s favorite target is 5-11 sophomore Shelton Gibson, who has four touchdown catches on the season and has racked up 329 yards. Considering OU’s past and present struggles with containing the Air Raid offense, they will have their hands full. When it comes to running the ball, the Mountaineers are getting about 220 yards on the ground. Junior Wendell Smallwood highlights the running back corps. Smallwood busted for 147 yards vs. Maryland he also has four touchdowns. Junior Rushel Shell also helped out on the way to 304 team rushing yards against the Terrapins.
Defensively, WVU is stout, ranking 11th in the NCAA, and giving up just 8 points per game and 307 yards. They’re number one in the country in points allowed. They’re number three in takeways. And they’re number one in the Big 12 in defending the pass, third downs, and the red zone. Of course, those numbers are helped by the fact that West Virginia has a schedule made by Dolly Madison. Thier best win is against Maryland, who themselves lost to Bowling Green. Not that OU has played the stiffest of competition, and after Tennessee’s loss to Florida we are all still wondering just good the Sooners are. However, the Mountaineers’ defense is hungry and motivated. When the second team defense gave up a garbage time touchdown, the starters were not happy about losing their shutout. Instead, West Virginia had to settle for a 45-6 victory against Maryland. “They all wanted to go back in and were putting their helmets on, but I told them to relax,” defensive coordinator Tony Gibsn said. “Our starters weren’t happy when they crossed the 50 [yard line].”
Right now OU is 7.5 point favorite, and that seems about right. We’ll have t hope that whatever OU did in their off week works. There are lots of interesting matchups on both sides of the ball: can Mayfield, Perine and company prove that WVU’s vaunted defense is a product of cupcake scheduling? Can OU’s secondary and pass rush handle duel-threat quarterback Skyler Howard? Can Stoops outcoach Dana Holgorsen? There is still a long way to go in this season, and no one wants to start conference play wondering if a December Bowl is in the future. We’ll find out bright and early on Saturday at 11 A.M.