Oklahoma faces West Virginia
Are these two teams that are trending in opposite directions? Granted that the Sooners have struggled to beat two sub-par FBS teams and the Mountaineers just beat the number 15 team in the country one might think so. Although this may be true, things could take a turn for both schools this Saturday in Norman. In due time, the cream always rises to the top. Be that as it may, let us begin debate as Oklahoma faces West Virginia.
The Mountaineers lost to Maryland in its season opener but have since won two straight. Granted one of those wins was against FCS opponent, Long Island. More recently, the Mountaineers led Virginia Tech 27-7 midway through the third quarter last week. The No. 15 Hokies got a couple of touchdowns to get it back to a one-possession game, 27-21. West Virginia held on for the upset. But for the Mountaineers to upset the Sooners, it will have to be on the back of running back Leddie Brown. At the same time, quarterback Jarret Doege needs to have an error-free performance. Doege did not play error-free against Virginia Tech. With the game in the balance, his late fumble and interception nearly gave the game away to the Hokies. That can’t happen this week against a team like the Sooners.
To begin with, the Mountaineer leader and quarterback Doege has completed 60.2 percent of his passes for 729 yards and six touchdowns, and three interceptions.
Brown is the leading rusher for West Virginia. The senior has averaged 88 yards per game this season. Brown has nine receptions for 92 yards and one touchdown through three games. He was an All-Big 12 selection in 2020 by rushing for 1,010 yards and nine touchdowns. Brown also had 32 receptions for 202 yards and two scores. Brown rushed for 161 yards and an 80-yard touchdown against the Hokies last Saturday.
To begin with, West Virginia’s defense is allowing 2.6 yards per rush through three games.
Linebacker Jared Bartlett is the apparent leader of the Mountaineer defense. Bartlett, a redshirt sophomore, earned the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week honor last week. He recorded five tackles, including a game-high and career-high three sacks in the Mountaineers’ 27-21 win over No. 15 Virginia Tech. Bartlett also forced and recovered a key fumble.
The Mountaineers, Winston Wright Jr. leads the nation in kickoff return yardage. With this in mind, Oklahoma’s Gabe Brkic rarely allows a kickoff return. Although Oklahoma rarely punts, that department is ably manned by newcomer Michael Turk. To that end, special teams should be negated for West Virginia.
In the first place, many fans and Sooner faithful have been disappointed with the season so far. Not only is Oklahoma undefeated but they are still a top-five team nationally. There is an old adage in sports, it’s not how it is how many. As of this point, Oklahoma is three and zero. Of course, the Sooners have not been playing as well as expected, but this will change this Saturday in Norman.
While it has obviously not performed well, the Sooner offense is on the verge of an explosion. In the first place, quarterback Spencer Rattler has played poorly thus far this season. Although this may be true, this is a trend that will not continue. Rattler must relax in the pocket, be patient, and make better decisions with the football.
If his current level of play continues, there is a talented freshman in Caleb Williams ready to step in and step up.
Comparatively, the running game took a big step forward in last week’s game. Eric Gray ran for 84 yards on 15 carries and Kennedy Brooks added 75 yards on 14 attempts for the Sooners. In like manner, the offensive line is beginning to settle in and be more dominant.
Additionally, the receiving group is primed for a big game as well. Thus far, the ultra-talented receivers have been a bright spot on the offense.
Clearly, the defense has been the dominant unit thus far this season. Another key point to understand, Nik Bonitto has been the best player on either side of the ball. To point out, the defense is getting better with each game. A point often overlooked is that Isaiah Thomas, Jalen Redmond, And Perrion Winfrey may not have a record-setting number of sacks but all three are becoming unblockable.
Consequently, the secondary is getting more comfortable each week. As was evident by arguably the most impressive interception ever in college football by D.J. Graham last week against Nebraska.
The Final Word
As we conclude our look at this weekend’s matchup as Oklahoma faces West Virginia, ultimately, Oklahoma is ready for a breakout game. As mentioned, this week by head coach Lincoln Riley it’s time to stop the conservative play-calling and player performance. That is not to say the Sooners have been bad. Generally speaking, they have played okay. Although this may be true, at Oklahoma okay just isn’t okay!
Unfortunately for West Virginia, they will be the instrument of a Sooner resurgence.
West Virginia 13