Oklahoma will take on the West Virginia Mountaineers on Saturday at Gaylord Family at 6 PM CT. The Sooners enter the game ranked No. 17 with a 7-2 record, while the Mountaineers are unranked with a 6-3 record. Both are tied for second in the Big 12 at 4-2 and are still competing for a spot in the championship.
This week’s first preview explored important players to watch when WVU is on offense. This piece will look ahead at the key matchups when OU has the ball as well as give a prediction about the game.
Sooners fans have been up in arms after the last few offensive performances. Some have called for offensive coordinator, Jeff Lebby, to be fired or to at least take responsibility for his unit’s struggles.
The playcalling from Lebby has certainly been questionable, with the most glaring call coming on fourth down with the Sooners trailing Oklahoma State in the final minutes of Bedlam. Drake Stoops ran a quick out that was about two yards short of the line to gain. As a brief aside, Stoops had some great comments about the rest of the season that really showed his character and further cemented him as a true Sooner.
At time, it has seemed like Lebby is too conservative, opting to run the ball instead of passing it to seal OU wins against Kansas and OSU. But at other times, Lebby has failed to properly establish the run early in games, which puts the offense in a bind.
Oklahoma has the talent to be successful on offense. Dillon Gabriel can be a Heisman candidate. Gavin Sawchuk, Tawee Walker, and Marcus Major have proven to be formidable forces out of the backfield. Stoops has been clutch all season and Nic Anderson and Jalil Farooq have flashed some potential. The offensive line has also been stout, a great improvement from last year.
Against West Virginia, the Sooners will be out for blood, hoping to exorcise their demons from the last two weeks. WVU has a defense that ranks in the top half of the Big 12 in most important defensive categories, but has also allowed 38, 41, 48, and 28 points to four opponents.
The offensive output begins and ends with Dillon Gabriel. He threw for 344 yards and one score last week, but also committed two turnovers and didn’t scramble at all. It would be nice to see Gabriel account for multiple touchdowns in this game while keeping the defense honest with his legs.
Running back continuity has been an issue all season for the Sooners, but Sawchuk had the hot hand last week, so maybe the coaching staff will continue to use him.
Drake Stoops had a career-best 134 receiving yards last week, and he and Gabriel have a real connection, so look for him to continue his run of success against this questionable Mountaineers secondary.
Key Player: Dillon Gabriel
The Sooners are reeling and they need one of their leaders to step up and give them some confidence. Gabriel will have every opportunity to help right the Oklahoma ship this weekend.
The Mountaineers have been good but not great on defense this season. They rank eighth in defensive efficiency in the Big 12, sixth in rush yards allowed, and fourth in pass yards allowed. They’ve collected 18 sacks and nine interceptions as a team.
They’ve held five teams to under 22 points, but have also allowed more than 28 points four times. Penn State scored 56 against WVU, Houston scored 41, Oklahoma State scored 48, and UCF scored 28. So clearly, this is a defense that doesn’t always handle itself well.
However, they do have some talented players who can wreck an offense’s day, led by senior linebacker and leading tackler, Lee Kpogba. His 67 tackles are ninth in the conference, and he’s also added two sacks and five and a half tackles for loss.
Tomiwa Durojaiye is a massive true freshman on the defensive line. He stands 6’4” and 278 pounds, and despite missing some time this season, he leads the team in sacks with three.
In the secondary, sixth-year player, Beanie Bishop Jr. paces the whole conference in passes defended by a wide margin with 17, that’s eight more than the next closest player. He’s made quarterbacks pay for targeting him though, intercepting four passes to rank second in the conference in the stat.
While the Mountaineers defense might not stand out in any particular team statistic, they absolutely have players that OU will need to keep their eyes on.
Key Player: Lee Kpogba
If Kpogba can be disruptive in the run game and patrol the middle of the field well, he could give Gabriel and the offense fits.
Oklahoma matches up well against the WVU defense and should be in a position to take advantage of the talent gap between the two teams. However, WVU is scrappy and if their offense can keep pace with the Sooners, it could be a close contest.
Prediction: Sooners 34 – Mountaineers 27
The Sooner offense will find its rhythm, but WVU will do just enough to keep the game close.
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