Matt Hofeld from Crimson and Cream Machine was kind enough to answer some questions about this weekend's huge game in Moragntown between the Sooners and the Mountaineers. Let's get started, shall we?
Matt K.: Stoops announced earlier this week that Keith Ford will be sidelined for a while with an ankle injury. He's obviously a huge talent, but the Sooners seem to have a pretty full stable of backs. How much of a hole will the loss of Ford create, and who is going to be the next man up for Oklahoma?
Matt H.: Oklahoma’s rushing attack has been a three-headed monster this season and the next two guys up are fortunately guys who have experience in the first three games of the season. Redshirt sophomore Alex Ross and true freshman Samaje Perine are most likely going to be the ones who get the bulk of the workload that would have gone to Ford.
I’m not sure that Oklahoma will miss Ford in the running game as much as they will in the passing attack. Ross is averaging a team-high 6.3 yards per carry and Perine is at 5.5 yards per carry. The question is, can they be just as effective as a receiver out of the backfield and can they make the crucial blocks to protect the quarterback? That may be the biggest area of concern in replacing Keith Ford.
Matt K.: Trevor Knight is really coming into his own as a great quarterback. He's also quite a bit different from the great Oklahoma quarterbacks of the past decade or so (Sam Bradford, Landry Jones, Jason White, and Josh Heupel) in that he's not, you know, a statute. What sort of edge has that mobility brought to Oklahoma's offense?
Matt H.: Knight has run for and passed for a touchdown in each of Oklahoma’s first three games so a defense has to respect his ability to make plays with his legs. On the other hand, the Sooners have a redshirt freshman behind him on the depth chart who got his first ever reps in the Tulsa game two weeks ago. For that reason they don’t run Knight as much as you’d think they would, or should, but they do it just enough to keep the defenses aware of the threat.
Matt K.: Oklahoma's defense was exposed pretty badly at the end of the 2012 season (/watches Tavon Austin highlight reel for the 9326th time). After that mess, the switch was made to more of a 3-3-5 look akin to what West Virginia ran for most of the last decade. Obviously, the defense has made tremendous strides since then and is universally considered elite. How much of that is scheme change and how much is an increase in talent?
Matt H.:I would say that it’s an even 50/50 split. The Sooners use a "3-4" scheme that often looks like a 3-3, 4-3, or even a 5-2. Obviously you have to have a personnel group of versatile athletes to pull that off and Mike Stoops has just that at his disposal. They are big and quick up front and deceptive in the secondary. Defensive linemen run like linebackers, linebackers run like secondary guys and secondary guys hit like linebackers. It’s a crazy formula that is working out well to this point of the season but they’ve also yet to be tested the way the Mountaineers will on Saturday night. Dana Holgorsen does about the same amount of crazy stuff with offensive guys as Mike Stoops does with defense.
Matt K.: You guys are considered one of the favorites for a spot in the first College Football Playoff at this early stage in the game. What are your thoughts on the postseason changes, and how do you think OU would stack up against the other favorites for a playoff berth (Bama, Oregon, Florida State etc).
Matt H.: First off, I love the playoff! Wish it were at least eight teams but you have to start somewhere. There’s a big difference in being left out at #5 and being left out at #3. I have no idea how OU would stack up against Bama, FSU, and Oregon right now. Both Alabama and Florida State had their struggles against the Big XII schools that they’ve faced but you would also have to say that Oregon has the most impressive victory of the Top 5 right now. I wouldn’t have any problem at all saying that the Ducks are the best team in the nation right now.
Matt K.: I don't like to ask for predictions, so what are your big keys to the game on both sides? What must Oklahoma do to hold serve and win as a road favorite, and what weaknesses can West Virginia exploit to score a huge home upset?
Matt H.: I think for Oklahoma it starts with running the football. The Sooners have to be able to chew up ground and clock in an effort to keep Clint Trickett standing on the sidelines. Defensively they have to take away the short and intermediate passing routes, and force Trickett to look through his progressions. Doing this would give Oklahoma’s defensive front time to get into the backfield and be disruptive.
I think the Mountaineers have to make Trevor Knight uncomfortable and force turnovers. A big play or two in the special teams department would go a long way as well. If they can pick on free safety Ahmad Thomas (you’d need to be effective on the ground to do that) and protect the quarterback then this game could turn out to be very interesting.
Matt K.: Who would win in a fight between Voltron and the original Power Rangers Mega Zord?
Matt H.: Hmmmmmm…I think the Power Rangers were ninjas and I would never go against a dinosaur that is made up from a bunch of ninjas who are morphed together.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: The season long battle between Voltron and the Power Rangers Mega Zord is now tied up at one win each.
Thanks again to Matt from Crimson and Cream Machine for taking the time to help us preview this weekend's game. You can follow him on Twitter @CCMachine and be sure to check out CCM for more Sooner coverage.