No. 12 Oklahoma (7-2) at West Virginia (5-4)
Nov. 17, 6 p.m.
Milan Puskar Stadium (Morgantown, W.V.)
Line: OU -11
Series: Tied 2-2; WVU has won 2 straight
West Virginia is ranked 5th nationally in passing (347.6 yards per game), which has fueled its offense to a ranking 18th nationally (480.2 yards per game)… Quarterback Geno Smith is the engineer of this potent offense… He ranks 3rd nationally in passing yards per game (337.8), 6th in total offense (347.1 yard average) and 13th in passing efficiency (159.2 rating)… Smith, once touted as a Heisman Trophy contender, has connected on 71 percent of his passes with 31 for TDs and only 3 INTs… His two main targets are Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey… Austin, an all-Big East first team choice in 2011, leads the country with 10.7 grabs per game, and Bailey is third in receiving yards (117.2) per game. The Mountaineers average 132.7 yards rushing per game and 4 yards per carry… Andrew Buie is the leading rusher with 646 yards on 140 carries and 5 TDs.
WVU ranks dead last nationally in passing defense (345.2 yards per game) and 110th in total yards (478.1 yard average)… Run defense is its stronger suit, allowing 134.6 yards per game and ranked 31st, but the D ranks 117th in scoring by giving up 41.4 points per game (49.5 during the past four games)… Linebacker Isaiah Bruce is the leading tackler with 80 stops, and he has 6 tackles for loss and 1 INT… Linebacker Josh Francis has 43 tackles, but he leads with 15 behind the line of scrimmage and 4.5 have been sacks…The starting secondary has only 2 INTs and has broken up 5 passes this year.
Austin was the Big East’s Special Teams Player of the Year in ’11… He has averaged 30.3 yards per kickoff return with 1 TD this year and has 8.8 yards per punt return with one score… Tyler Bitancurt is the punter and kicking specialist… He averages 41.3 yards per punt and has hit 48 of 49 PATs, but he has made only half of his dozen field goal tries… Corey Smith occasionally punts, and he has averaged 42.6 yards per kick.
Sooner fans want to forget the last time these two met… The Mountaineers ran roughshod over OU en route to a 48-28 Fiesta Bowl victory five years ago… Quarterback Pat White and running back Noel Devine combined for 258 yards, and the Sooner defense allowed 4 rushing TDs.
Last week, Oklahoma seemed to underestimate Baylor’s running ability in committing to a seven-man secondary to stop the pass… The Bears rolled up 252 yards on the ground as the Sooners missed many tackles… If Mike Stoops commits to loading up the secondary, it’ll be up to the front four to stop the run and pressure Geno Smith… And, up to the secondary to play clean on the Mountaineer receivers.
How well Landry Jones performs will be the key for OU’s offense… He has converted 75 percent on third down in the past two games after converting only 39% in the first seven… The Sooners rank 7th in the country in third-down conversions at 52 percent… If he’s on his A-game, Jones likely could get 600 or more yards Saturday… Look for the ball to be spread to many receivers.
The front line has done a superb job of keeping Jones upright and must be aggressive to open running lanes… Tyrus Thompson and Lane Johnson continue to do an outstanding job of protecting Landry’s blind side… This week will be critical as the Mountaineers have recorded 21 sacks; five in the last two games… Gabe Ikard should be back at center this week.
OU’s defense is ranked 20th (325.2 average) in total yards allowed, 8th in passing yards (170.2) allowed, 2nd in passing efficiency defense, and 24th in scoring defense (19.6 points per game)… The key match-up will be WVU’s passing game versus OU’s pass defense… The Sooners have yielded more than 200 yards only twice (Texas Tech and Texas)… Tech threw for 259 yards, but 191 against the first-string defense… The Longhorns passed for 215 yards, but 102 came versus the backups.
This was considered the preseason Big 12 Game of the Year for the conference title… OU continues to fight for a BCS bowl, and WVU is trying to become bowl eligible…The Sooners need to jump to an early lead to get the crowd out of it, and this game is no exception to that rule… Word has it the fans can get pretty rowdy in Morgantown… OU scored first and held a lead (24.7-7 average) in the first half of its last three games away from Norman.
*This is OU’s first trip to Morgantown.
*OU is 10-5-2 on November 17th.
*WVU is 10-10 on November 17th.
*OU has won 31 straight when leading at halftime.
*Morgantown was named for Colonel Zacquill Morgan, a late-18th Century settler. After settlement in 1772, the city was incorporated in 1810. Morgantown, located in north central West Virginia, currently has a population of about 30,200.
*Milan Puskar was an American Entrepreneur and philanthropist from Morgantown. He donated $20 million to the university, which named the stadium after him.