Gameday: Friday, November 23, 8:00 PM, ESPN
Location: Mountaineer Field at Milan-Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, WV
Opponent: Oklahoma Sooners
Predicted Season: 10-2, Offense - 1st; Defense - 49th
Streak: West Virginia is 0-Big 12 against the Sooners
The Oklahoma Sooners are cheaters folks. I don’t mean in the poke-the-bear kinda fun I had with TCU, I mean they are literal cheaters. It is in their name. From the SoonerSports.com:
Famously, Oklahoma Territory was opened for settlement through land claims races, or Land Runs, and in 1889, thousands made their way to the Twin Territories to participate in the first of these dramatic events. Each race began with a pistol shot, and those who jumped the gun were called Sooners.
Those who jumped the gun were called Sooners, so we named the state school after these people.
Baker Mayfield is gone. He took his walk-on, Heisman Trophy, first overall pick in the NFL ass to Cleveland. So the Sooner replace him with a player selected ninth overall in Major League Baseball. Kyler Murray, who made a guest appearance against the Mountaineers for all of one play. Baker Mayfield was suspended for one series following an obscene gesture he made the week prior against the Kansas Jayhawks. So naturally Murray played one play, taking the ball 66 yards for a touchdown. That guy is going to start this year.
Think about this for a second: according to Bill C’s metrics, Oklahoma was so good with Baker Mayfield that even if you take a greater reduction of production than normal, Oklahoma is still projected to be the #1 offense. And I believe it.
Complimenting Kyler Murray will be Rodney Anderson. Anderson rushed for 1,161 yards. He rushed for a grand total of 79 in OU’s first six games. In their final eight games he rushed for over 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns. IF he had played all 14 games like those last eight, he would have rushed for almost 1,900 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Behind Anderson is sophmore Trey Sermon who rushed for 744 yards and five TDs as a freshman. Horses after horses.
Murray will have two studs as receiver back with Marquise Brown and CeeDee Lamb. The pair combined for almost 1,900 yards receiving. Thankfully tight end Mark Andrews and his 1,000 yard bum is gone, so the Sooners will turn to Grant Calcaterra, a 6’-4” target in his own right.
On the offensive line the Sooners will need to find a way to replace first team All-American left tackle Orlando Brown. Brown was drafted by the Ravens in third round and starting center Erick Wren who started all 13 games last season. Lincoln Riley apparently has toyed with the idea of using Cody Ford at left tackle but Ford will need to prove he can stay healthy for an entire season. Doing so would allow the Sooners to keep both of their guards Ben Powers and Dru Samia in place while letting Bobby Evans stay at right tackle.
The Oklahoma defense will determine the fate of the Big 12. In the Sooners three non-conference games they held teams to 12 points a game. Once Big 12 play started that changed. The Sooners allowed 30+ points six times, 24+ points eight times and were not as dominant.
The bad news for the Sooners is that Mike Stoops is still the defensive coordinator. More bad news is that Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and his 8 sacks and 61 tackles are gone. So is D.J. Ward and his 4 sacks. The Sooners do have juniors Marquise Overton and Kenneth Mann back on the defensive line.
Sophomore Kenneth Murray was a revelation after starting as a freshman and totaling 7.5 TFL and 11 stuffs. The Sooners will pair him with Caleb Kelly on the weakside. Kelly, a former 5-star linebacker has the ability to rush the passer or defend the tight end.
On the back-end, Oklahoma will have to replace both starting safeties in Stephen Parker and Will Johnson. They do have Parnell Motley at corner, who led the team with 9 pass breakups. Sophomores Jordan Parker and Tre Norwood will be asked to cover receivers. Both will need to show some more ball awareness if they hope to defend the pass-happy Big 12 offenses.
The kicking game should be in good hands with senior Austin Seibert, who made all 81 point-after attempts and also handled kickoff and punting duties. The new kickoff rule that allows a team to fair-catch a ball inside the 25 yard line and start the drive at the 25 will be helpful for the Sooners since all of their kick returns averaged only 20 yards per return.
If you want to win the Big 12 you have to beat the Sooners. The Big 12 runs through Norman, Oklahoma. The good news is that if the Mountaineers are as good as they think they can be, they get Oklahoma in a primetime spot at home. The bad news is that the Sooners are likely going to be in the Big 12 Championship Game and that would mean the Mountaineers would have to play Oklahoma back-to-back. Good luck beating Lincoln Riley and the Crimson and Cream consecutive weeks.