Game of the Week: Oklahoma vs. West Virginia
In what was a wild weekend of major upsets in college football, the Big 12 found a lifeline to get back into the College Football Playoff picture. A conference once pronounced dead now has a ray of hope with three teams inside the top 15 of the latest rankings.
Two of those three teams, No. 9 Oklahoma (8-2, 7-0) and No. 14 West Virginia (8-1, 5-1), meet Saturday night in Morgantown in what has quietly become the biggest game of the season in the conference. The winner will be in the driver’s seat for a Big 12 Championship and a Sugar Bowl appearance as well as a long shot at the playoff.
The Sooners, after two early non-conference losses to Houston and No. 2 Ohio State, find themselves atop the current standings having notched seven consecutive wins, the longest streak in the country outside of the two undefeated teams.
West Virginia’s only blemish of the season came on the road at No. 11 Oklahoma State, but the Mountaineers are hurt by their lack of quality wins, the aforementioned loss being their only game against a team currently in the playoff rankings.
Per usual in the Big 12, this game features two explosive offenses. The Sooners are spearheaded by quarterback Baker Mayfield and wide receiver Dede Westbrook. Mayfield is eighth in the country in passing yards with 3,212 while Westbrook’s 1,254 receiving yards are tops in the Big 12 and fifth in the country. Joe Mixon has also been a nice addition in the backfield with 937 rush yards and six touchdowns this year.
The Mountaineers counter with a triple threat at running back. Justin Crawford, Rushel Shell and Kennedy McCoy all average over 60 rush yards per game on the ground and as a team, the Mountaineers average 211. However, Oklahoma’s defense has done a solid job of stopping the run, only yielding 132 yards per game.
West Virginia quarterback Skyler Howard is going to have to take care of the ball if his team wants to win. He threw three interceptions in a close win at Texas last week but he won’t be able to get away with that again as he faces an opportunistic Oklahoma defense that has surrendered just over 200 passing yards per game in their last three contests.
Prediction: Oklahoma 42, West Virginia 31
The Sooners are going to put up points, so the game is simply a matter of whether or not West Virginia can match whatever they put up. Baker Mayfield has been on another level the last few games, and key contributions from Mixon and Samaje Perine should wear the Mountaineer defense down. Perine rushed for 242 yards last week against Baylor; expect more of the same on Saturday.
Howard and Co. can stay with Oklahoma for a while, but a couple of key mistakes in the fourth quarter will spell doom for the gold and blue. The loss would knock the Mountaineers out of the playoff picture and set up a potential winner-take-all scenario for the conference title in two weeks when Oklahoma State visits Oklahoma.
The Sooners are 6-2 all time against West Virginia and 2-0 in Morgantown.
The game kicks off at 8 p.m. ET Saturday and can be seen on ABC.
Tom Shively is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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