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West Virginia vs #5 Oklahoma Preview: Season 127, Episode 7 - Not In The Face, Please

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The weekend's task in Norman is the tallest we'll face all season - can our Mountaineers #TrustTheClimb all the way to an upset?

NCAA Football: Iowa State at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

WHEN/WHERE

Date: October 19, 2019

Time: 12:00pm EST

Venue: The Gaylord Family Memorial Stadium - Norman, OK

HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN

TV: FOX

Streaming: FoxSports 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 IMG on TuneIn Radio.

DEGENERATES UNITE

Spread: West Virginia +33

Over/Under: 62

The Mountaineers find themselves the underdogs for the third consecutive week. +33 feels a bit high, but unfortunately not that high.

#THREAD WATCH

West Virginia:

A new combo! I'm going to hold off on judgement until I see it on the field, but for now I think I kinda like it.

Oklahoma:

Oklahoma will wear their classic crimson and white get up for homecoming.

KNOW THE ENEMY

Series History: (2-9). It's no secret that Oklahoma has been by far our biggest foil since joining the Big 12. I obviously think we should've won last year, but as it stands we haven't beaten the Sooners at football since the Fiesta Bowl in 2008.

2019 Record: (6-0). No suprises here. The season opening win against Houston doesn't look nearly as impressive as it did at the time and the competition has been largely subpar since then, but last week's win in the Red River Rivalry shows that Oklahoma is again the real deal.

Head Coach: Lincoln Riley. Few coaches this century have burst onto the scene has strongly as Lincoln Riley. The guy is an elite recruiter and objectively one of the five best play callers in the country at any level of the game.

Offensive Coordinator: Cale Gundy and Bill Bedenbaugh. Gundy and Bedenbaugh have both been pivotal to Oklahoma's offensive explosion since 2017. Gundy leads the inside receivers and running backs while Bedenbaugh is the chief engineer of an offensive line that's annually recognized as one of the nation's best.

Defensive Coordinator: Alex Grinch. Grinch is in his first year in Norman after previous coordinator gigs at Ohio State and Washington State. Through 6 games this year his defense has been by far the best of the Lincoln Riley era.

WHEN WE HAVE THE BALL...

WVU players to watch: QB Austin Kendall, RB Leddie Brown, WR Sam James, WR Ali Jennings

Oklahoma players to watch: LB Kenneth Murray, NT Neville Gallimore, SS Delarrin Turner-Yell, RUSH Jon-Michael Turner, RUSH Nic Bonitto, DE Ronnie Perkins, CB Tre Brown

Houston's subsequent nose dive had me skeptical of Oklahoma's statistical improvement on defense, but last week's performance against a very good Texas offense showed that the numbers hold water. The Sooners are in the top third of the country in both scoring (20.8, 28th) and total defense (340.3, 41st) and have actually been somewhat better than that in terms of generating havoc plays, where their 3.7 sacks and 8.2 TFL per game rank 10th and 11th nationally, respectively.

The leader of the group is undoubtedly Kenneth Murray. Murray is a tackling machine from his middle linebacker position and is again leading the team in that department after averaging over 11 per game a year ago. He's been somewhat less productive this year, but that's largely due to an emergent group of playmakers in the secondary led by Delarrin Turner-Yell. Out wide, Tre Brown has been as solid as ever at one of the corner spots while Jaden Fields and Pat Davis have filled in admirably for Tre Norwood at the other.

They're much improved up front, as well. The group is again anchored by Neville Gallimore, but Ronnie Perkins and especially Jon-Michael Turner and Nic Bonitto have given them an unfamiliar pop off the edge.

Defining success: We have to hit on our big plays

The primary criticism of Oklahoma's defense is that their success in generating negative plays has come at the expense of allowing explosive ones (78th nationally with 87 10+ yards plays allowed). They can generally get away with that because their own offense is so good, but it's certainly a weakness that I think we'll need to exploit if we're going to be at all competitive this weekend. I expect us to attack them down the field early and often, and we're going to need to hit more than half of them if we want it to be a game in the second half.

WHEN THEY HAVE THE BALL...

WVU players to watch: DT Dante Stills, NT Darius Stills, LB Josh Chandler, SPEAR Kwantel Raines, CB Nicktroy Fortune, CB Tae Mayo, FS Tykee Smith

Oklahoma players to watch: QB Jalen Hurts, RB Trey Sermon, RB Kennedy Brooks, WR CeeDee Lamb, WR Charleston Rambo, WR Jadon Haselwood

Simply put, Oklahoma has sported the best offense in the country for the back half of this decade, and it's a testament to everyone involved that they somehow continue to match themselves. The numbers this year are again so outrageous that words don't really do them justice, so let's just run through them real quick - 50.8 points per game (3rd nationally), 286 rushing yards per game (6th) on 7.7 yards per carry (1st by a full yard), 335 passing yards per game (5th) on 12 yards per attempt (2nd), and 622 total yards per game (1st by almost 100 yards per game) on 9.6 yards per play (1st by over 1.5 ypp). Yikes.

Jalen Hurts has been nothing short of excellent in his first year in Norman. Kyler Murray may have been more explosive and Baker Mayfield may have been more entertaining, but there’s no denying that Hurts has been just as effective as either. His 398 total yards per game (293 passing, 105 rushing) rank 2nd nationally, while his 11.3 yards per play are alone at the top of the pack.

The skill positions are loaded with familiar faces, as well. Running backs Trey Sermon and Kennedy Brooks are back and are again the class of the Big 12, while CeeDee Lamb and Charleston Rambo are the most explosive 1-2 punch in the conference out wide and both average better than 21 yards per reception. They'll miss Grant Calcaterra for a second consecutive week, but true freshman Jadon Haselwood should be back and ready to carry the load as the team's third option.

There are some new faces up front, but Creed Humphrey is back as the anchor in the middle, and really the Sooners have recruited so well that the newcomers have picked up right where last year's award-winning group left off.

Defining success: Chaos

It is highly unlikely that we're going to slow them down for any extended period of time this weekend, so I think our best chance at success is to try to create as much chaos as possible and hope we're able to pounce on the few times that they slip up. They're going to hit big plays whether we play it conservatively or not, so we might as well return the favor. A turnover here, a defensive touchdown there, and who knows.

CLOSING ARGUMENT/PREDICTION

I hate to say it gang, but for the first time this year I have a really hard time seeing our path to victory. The Sooners offense is as good as ever and their defense is playing better than it has in years. I'd love to be the wrongest guy in America, but it just feels like there's too many things that need to go perfectly. I think we'll cover and keep it competitive into the 3rd quarter, but I could see them pulling away as we run out of gas.

West Virginia 24-45 Oklahoma