No. 12 Oklahoma (7-2) at West Virginia (5-4)
Nov. 17, 6 p.m.
Milan Puskar Stadium (Morgantown, W.V.)
Line: OU -11
So the brutal four-game losing streak by West Virginia has sucked almost all of the interest out of this game. In the preseason, this was going to be the game of the year for the Big 12 between its top two contenders. Now, however, the stakes are very different.
For Oklahoma, the motivation is simple and significant: Win out and return to a BCS bowl game.
For WVU, things are much less clear. There's a vibe of unrest and quit coming from Morgantown, so a big win over OU might settle some things down for a team that has seen things go south completely.
Can OU stay on track for a high-profile postseason exhibition? Watch:
1. OU's offensive efficiency in the first half of the game
In theory, OU should be able to pass and run at will against one of the worst defenses in college football. Yet, OU let both Iowa State and Baylor off the ropes in the first half, leaving the games in doubt before taking over in the
It would be far better for OU to jump on the mentally fragile Mountaineers early and take the crowd out of the game.
2. OU's passing defense versus WVU's passing offense
Something has to give in terms of production for one of the two units here. Mike Stoops' revamped secondary has stopped committing the kind of coverage breakdowns that WVU has thrived on all year by throwing for big plays. OU needs to continue that level of play and force WVU to put together sustained drives.
3. Ball protection
OU's has a turnover margin of -4 in its last three games. The Sooners need to force some turnovers, and Landry Jones needs to protect the football.
Another game with -2 or -3 turnover margin could lead to an OU loss.
4. Run defense against spread sets
The yearlong issue of defending the run when teams spread OU out on defense hit a painful culmination versus Baylor. OU's play at defensive line and linebacker has not been good enough to when spread out to provide the coverage needed against multi-wide receiver sets and stop a zone read running game.
Will WVU roll out a running attack and tell Geno Smith to run some real zone read action? After the Baylor game, has Mike figured out a better strategy for stopping it?
5. Kick returns
OU could get a real special teams boost in the return game again this week. WVU had all kinds of coverage issues last week versus Oklahoma State. Roy Finch and Brennan Clay have been doing a great job on kickoffs along with Justin Brown in the punt return game.
WVU has good returners, too, so the Mountaineers' return game is a real threat.
WVU cannot afford to give OU's offense any extra help with great field position and/or points.