Date: November 17, 2018
Time: 3:30pm EST
Venue: Boone T. Pickens Stadium, Stillwater, OK
How to Watch/Listen
Streaming: WatchESPN app
Radio: Click HERE for a complete list of radio affiliates in West Virginia. If you live outside of the state, or don’t live close enough to a radio affiliate, you can listen to the Mountaineer Sports Network from IMGon TuneIn Radio.
Spread: WVU -5
Follow your heart with the spread, but I like us to cover and go over.
Love the new combo. A little birdie told me that we may be rocking the throwback "State" helmets, as well, which takes this look to an even higher level.
Know Your Enemy
Series History: (5-4). The Pokes finally have the edge on us in the series after winning the last three on the trot. That sentence should be more than enough to ensure we're not looking ahead to 11/23.
Record: (5-5, 2-5). Talk about a tough team to get a read on. I'm not sure that there's a more talented .500 team in the country, but some of their results are just downright puzzling. They got legitimately blown out by both Texas Tech and Kansas State to the point that neither of the games seemed flukey, but they beat Texas and arguably should've beaten Oklahoma last weekend and neither of those games looked flukey either. Your classic Jekyll and Hyde football team, which could either be a really good thing or a really big problem for us come Saturday.
Head Coach: Mike Gundy. Gundy is without a doubt my second favorite coach in the Big 12. He just seems to care about the right things without taking himself too seriously, which in my opinion is just about the ideal lane to take in the high stakes world of major college football. Say what you want about him, but not many guys have six 10-win seasons this decade.
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Yurcich.
Defensive Coordinator: Jim Knowles.
By the Numbers
Welcome to “By the Numbers”!
First, the weekly caveat: Google Sheets mobile limits my radar chart options so all numbers are displayed in terms of percentiles. Obviously the higher the better.
Second, definitions for the uninitiated:
Big Play Differential (10+ yard runs, 20+ yard passes) = (Big Plays For - Big Plays Against)
Toxic Differential = Big Play Differential + Turnover Margin
NFP, Net Field Position = Average Starting Field Position - Opponent Average Starting Field Position
Havoc Rate = (Total TFL + Passes Defended + Forced Fumbles)/Total Plays
As you can see, Oklahoma State’s offense compares very favorably to our own pretty much across the board. It’s on the other side of the ball where we should have the edge. Simply put, they allow lots of yards, lots of points, and lots of big plays.
The thing to watch this weekend: who creates more havoc? You’ll remember that before the season I identified Havoc Rate as one of the stats that would define us this year, and to this point our #Dawgs have been absolutely elite at it, ranking 5th nationally with a rate of 20.8%. That number means that we’re generating a tackle for loss, sack, forced fumble, interception, or pass defended about once in every five snaps, and those types of plays have been central to our defensive identity this year. Oklahoma State’s Havoc Rate lags well behind ours, but they do notably rank 2nd nationally with 3.6 sacks per game. Pay attention tomorrow to who is in who’s backfield, and who’s able to keep pass rushers away from their QB. If we come out tops in that battle, I like our chances to walk out of there 9-1.
When we have the ball..
Players to watch: DE Jordan Brailford, DE/LB Calvin Bundage, LB Justin Phillips, S Malcolm Rodriguez, S Kenneth Edison-McGruder, CB A.J. Green
Defining success: Protect the absolute hell out of Will
There’s no need to mince words here: Oklahoma State’s defense has been bad this year. And really, they should feel bad. They’re hovering near the bottom of the conference in most major statistical categories, and as I touched on a minute ago, they don’t dazzle in the advanced metrics either, ranking in the 41st percentile nationally in Havoc Rate and 16th percentile in Big Play Percentage. It’s something of a microcosm of their season really, where they’ve been nowhere near as good they should be considering the amount of individual talent that they have over there.
The Pokes base scheme features your standard four-down front, and they’ll be one of the better teams we’ve seen at all four positions. Jordan Brailford has been an absolute terror at defensive end, leading the conference with 9 sacks and ranking 2nd behind David Long with 15.5 TFL, while Jarrell Owens, Brailford’s partner on the other side, has chipped in with 5 sacks and 8.5 TFL of his own. Another guy to watch up there is edge specialist Calvin Bundage. Bundage has been battling an ankle injury for a few games now, but he’s an absolute handful athletically and has been very productive when he’s on the field.
The second level is almost as talented as the front. Justin Phillips is the anchor at linebacker and leads the team in tackles, but keep your eyes peeled for Kenneth Edison-McGruder, as well. Edison-McGruder asserts himself as an extremely active box safety, and anybody who watched Bedlam last weekend surely noticed #3 - the guy was making plays all over the field and even picked up a couple of sacks on the elusive Kyler Murray.
The secondary has talent, but has without a doubt been their problem area this year. Despite the return of AJ Green and the rise of Malcolm Rodriguez, Oklahoma State is allowing big plays through the air on 13.8% of passing snaps, which lands them in the 13th percentile nationally. That should worry them against us, but only if we’re able to keep those talented pass rushers away from Will. That’s the key for us this week. Their ability to generate pressure without blitzing is tantamount to their defensive success, but if we’re able to protect Will then I don’t think we’ll have trouble moving the ball and putting up points.
When they have the ball...
Players to watch: QB Taylor Cornelius, RB Justice Hill, RB Chuba Hubbard, WR Tylan Wallace, WR Tyron Johnson, WR Dillon Stoner
Defining success: Don’t give Cornelius time to breathe
No need to mince words here either: Oklahoma State’s offense is one of the best in the country. Top 15 nationally in points and yards per game, and even better than that in terms of generating explosive plays. Gibby and Co have their work cut out for them tomorrow; this is arguably the best group we’ve played this year.
At quarterback, Taylor Cornelius has acquitted himself as well as a first-year starter could be expected to. He’s given them about 85% of the production that the dearly departed Mason Rudolph did a year ago, which is to say that he’s top 10 nationally in yards per game and has thrown 23 touchdowns. He’s also reasonably effective on the ground where he’s chipped in with 7 touchdowns on 88 carries. One area where he’s left a little to be desired is with his accuracy. 61% completions isn’t bad on its face, especially considering how much they push the ball down the field, but it's been a highly erratic 61% and definitely falls well short of what they’ve been accustomed to over the last few years. More on that in a second.
The rest of their skill positions are every bit as talented as ours. Filling out the backfield is the familiar face of Justice Hill, who in my opinion is right up there with David Montgomery in the conversation for Big 12’s best running back, and the delightfully named Chuba Hubbard, who's had a very nice freshman year in a third down back type of role. Both guys average around 6 yards per carry and are tough to get on the ground in space. Out wide, Tyron Johnson and Dylan Stoner are both back and having productive years, but it's actually breakout star Tylan Wallace that we need to be most worried about. Wallace averages nearly 20 yards per reception and has quickly become one of the better big play receivers in the conference, so we'll need to be very aware of where he is at all times. One positive to note here is that none of these guys are taller than 6'0 or 6'1, whereas most of the guys who've given us trouble this year have had considerable size advantages over our corners.
As for the hogmalies, their line is without doubt the weak link of the offense. The Cowboys rank last in the conference in both sacks and tackles for loss allowed, and that's where I think we have to take advantage of them.
Simply put, we have to get into their backfield and get after Cornelius. Much like our own offense, Oklahoma State has too much skill position talent to try and worry about everyone, and much like us, it's much easier to slow them down if you can cut them off at the source. In their five wins Cornelius is completing 66% of his passes at a clip of 10.1 yards per attempt; in their five losses those numbers drop to 56% and 7.7 Y/A. In my mind that makes bothering him priority number one. We'll have to bring our big boy pants up front to stop Hill and Hubbard, as well, but if we can get to Cornelius early with some of those jailbreak blitzes and make him uncomfortable, it greatly improves our chances of slowing them down and ultimately winning the game.
Defining Success: Make Ammedola earn 3
We’ve been much better this year with regards to controlling field position (shout out to Dana for that wily timeout in the 3rd quarter last weekend to force TCU to punt into the wind), and that will obviously be something to watch this weekend, as well, but what I’m interested in is are we able to keep them out of the end zone when they get down into the red zone? They’ve been excellent this year at finishing their drives with touchdowns, but when they haven’t, their kicker has been a bit shaky. It feels like there might be some game-swinging potential there if we’re able to force field goals and get lucky with a miss or two.
Time to put a stop to the nonsense. I generally enjoy Oklahoma State, and they’ve had a good run against us these last few years, but enough is enough. We’ve come too far this year, and the opportunity we have here is too big to let slip. They’re a good football team, but we’re better. Let’s go take care of business and set ourselves up for something special.
West Virginia 41 Oklahoma State 27