The Oklahoma No.4 will want to shake off his slow start to his season on Saturday in his Big 12 opener against West Virginia. The Sooners are 3-0 but have won their previous games against Tulane and Nebraska by a total of 12 points. Quarterback Spencer Rattler, the pre-season favorite for the Heisman Trophy, was erratic, throwing just 518 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions against the aforementioned FBS opponents.
West Virginia faced regional rivals Maryland and Virginia Tech to open the season with mixed results. After a frustrating loss to the Terrapins, the Mountaineers beat the Hokies 27-21 in Week 3, behind 196 versatile yards for running back Leddie Brown. West Virginia was selected to finish sixth in the Big 12 preseason poll, sandwiched between No.5 TCU and No.7 Kansas State.
Oklahoma and West Virginia have played 12 times, with the majority of meetings taking place since the Mountaineers entered the Big 12. The Sooners have won every game since the conference realignment in 2012, including a shellacking. 52-14 in their last game in 2019. The 2020 game was called off due to the pandemic.
Here’s what you need to know about Saturday’s game in Norman, plus our expert team’s picks.
Oklahoma vs.West Virginia: what to know
Hurried reluctance: Oklahoma entered the 2021 season with just two purse holders following a wave of transfers and layoffs. Kennedy Brooks and Eric Gray are exceptional players, but it’s clear that the lack of depth in the backfield has had an impact on the game plan. Gray and Brooks combined for just 52 total runs against Tulane and Nebraska, while Rattler threw the ball 73 times. Rattler is one of the most talented quarterbacks in the country, but asking him to represent almost two-thirds of games is too much for a single player to handle.
Defensive regression: West Virginia boasted of the best passing defense in college football last season. But after losing several prominent defensive pieces, including cornerback Tykee Smith to Georgia, the unit has, as you might expect, taken a step back. Maryland’s Taulia Tagovailoa and Virginia Tech’s Braxton Burmeister combined to complete 69.2 percent of their passes to 8.5 yards per attempt and five touchdowns without any interceptions. The Mountaineers need to make the game harder for Rattler, but can they really do it?
Deadly Pass Rush: Oklahoma has quietly been one of the nation’s deadliest rush passing units behind notable players like Nik Bonitto and Isaiah Thomas. The Sooners finished 3rd nationally in sacks last season and already sit 6th nationally with 13 sacks in three games. When West Virginia quarterback Jarret Doege came under pressure last season, his completion percentage fell to 45.1%, according to Pro Football Focus. In 2021, its pressurized completion rate fell to 38.1%. If Oklahoma can still come after Doege, it will be a brutal day for the West Virginia offensive.
How to watch Oklahoma vs.West Virginia live
Dated: Saturday 25 Sep | Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Site: Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium – Norman, Oklahoma
TV: ABC | Direct: fuboTV (Try for free)
Oklahoma vs West Virginia prediction, pick
Featured Game | Oklahoma Sooners vs. West Virginia Mountaineers
Oklahoma faced their two FBS opponents on the same score, and West Virginia is probably the best opponent on the calendar at this point. Granted, the Sooners have the ability to turn on the running game and sideline any Big 12 team, though, we’re unlikely to see that dimension against this West Virginia team. For this reason, expect the score to be even closer than it should. Prediction: West Virginia (+16.5)
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