No. 6 Oklahoma at No. 13 West Virginia
When: 7 p.m. Friday at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, WV
Records: Oklahoma (10-1, 7-1 Big 12), West Virginia (8-2, 6-2 Big 12)
Last meeting: Oklahoma beat West Virginia 59-31 in Norman, OK.
What’s on the line
For Oklahoma, everything. The Sooners have been ripped apart in national circles for how their defense has performed over the last month, and, yet, a shot at a National Championship and a fourth straight Big 12 title is still within reach. A good performance and a win puts OU in a rematch with Texas down in Arlington, where the Sooners can avenge their only loss of the season. Another embarrassing showing could end OU’s campaign until bowl season and could also have other negative ramifications on the 2019 recruiting class and who the Sooners can hire to replace Mike Stoops at defensive coordinator.
For West Virginia, everything. The last few years of the Mountaineers’ program have been a long, winding lead up to this game. WVU has yet to beat Oklahoma since joining the Big 12, but now it has the Sooners in a vulnerable place — In Morgantown in a primetime matchup with one of the only quarterbacks in the country who can go toe-to-toe with Kyler Murray. Will Grier’s offense is a complete mismatch for OU’s undersized — and underdeveloped — secondary. The stars have aligned for WVU to finally triumph on a national stage and potentially win a Big 12 title. Can it capitalize?
When Oklahoma has the ball
For all of OU’s struggles this season, the offense is doing just fine. Murray is a Heisman candidate and would likely be a shoe-in at this point during most years. The offensive line is outstanding, and it might have four NFL Draft picks on it come next spring. The skill players are just as good, led by Marquise Brown, CeeDee Lamb, Trey Sermon and Kennedy Brooks. That recipe hasn’t changed, and WVU’s defense hasn’t provided much evidence that it knows how to stop the Sooners.
The potential neutralizer for WVU? Getting a turnover. The last time OU played in a hostile environment, Murray gifted Texas Tech 14 points in the first quarter with a pair of bad interceptions. The Sooners likely wouldn’t be able to recover from a repeat situation in Morgantown. Outside of that, the Mountaineer defense has really struggled at times this year, most recently in Stillwater last weekend.
When West Virginia has the ball
After giving up 40 points and over 500 yards of offense to Kansas in Norman, there’s no reason to think Oklahoma has any chance of stopping West Virginia’s high-powered attack in Morgantown. Oklahoma hasn’t been able to generate much of a pass rush since conference play started, and that has put a lot of pressure on cornerbacks Tre Brown, Parnell Motley and Tre Norwood. That trio will be tested in a big way on Saturday, and might need to come up with a timely interception for the Sooners to have a chance.
Two names Oklahoma fans will hear a lot of on Friday: David Sills V and Gary Jennings Jr. Those two Mountaineer receivers are the Big 12’s leaders in receiving touchdowns with 13 and 11, respectively. Sills is a legitimate threat everywhere on the field, be it on a deep ball or in the red zone. Jennings is a smaller target, but will still be a big problem for the Sooners. If West Virginia chooses to run the ball like the Jayhawks did, Kennedy McKoy is the name to know — he averaged seven yards per carry in a career-day against OSU last week.
This feels like the end of the road for Oklahoma’s playoff chances, which have been on life support for several weeks now. The defense doesn’t seem to have a plan or an identity, and there’s strong evidence that unit has gotten worse since the Sooners parted ways with Mike Stoops during the open date. West Virginia is built to beat this particular Oklahoma team, even with Murray re-writing OU’s record books week after week.
Score prediction: West Virginia 61, Oklahoma 51
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