Friday, November 23rd
7:00 PM, ESPN
Since the schedule came out way back last Fall this game has been circled in red with a double underline. A road trip to Morgantown, on Black Friday, against a high level quarterback and surrounded by a sea of screaming blue and gold fans jacked up on Mountain Dew and moonshine (and not that store-bought swill, either).
Throughout the season, as the Oklahoma defense struggled throughout the season, West Virginia always loomed as the monster under the bed, ready to tear apart this defense like cheap, wet toilet paper. Dread it, run from it, the game against the Mountaineers still arrives.
So here we are. While it isn’t a guaranteed rematch like we once thought, thanks to a Mountaineer collapse last week in Stillwater, the stakes could not be higher. For both teams, win and you punch your ticket to Arlington for December 1st’s Big 12 Championship game against (barring what would be the funniest loss of all time) Texas.
Lose and you are out. No four-peat shot for the Sooners. Another squandered chance at Big 12 glory for the Mountaineers.
Here’s the thing though; Oklahoma thrives on pressure. We live for games like this, mocking Big Game Bob/Little Game Lincoln monikers be damned. The Sooners haven’t lost a true road game since 2014. In the Lincoln Reilly era (2015-pres.), the Sooners are 11-1 against ranked Big 12 opponents, which includes a 56-28 trouncing of West Virginia in a top 10 matchup in Morgantown. When things get tough in the regular season, the Sooners usually show up. With the Mountaineers looking vulnerable against Oklahoma State, there is more than enough opportunity for this OU team get a big win in Morgantown.
Meet the Mountaineers:
8-2 (6-2)|AP #12, Coaches #12, CFP #9*|
West Virginia has had a bit of a wild season. The Mountaineers got off to a big start, routing Tennessee 40-14 in Charlotte. This was supposed to be one of two Power Five matchups this season, but their game with North Carolina State was cancelled due to complications due to Hurricane Florence.
In Big 12 play, the Mountaineers have been mostly impressive, with a few significant hiccups along the way. Led by a potent offense, West Virginia has scored 35+ points in all but one game this season. The outlier was a 30-14 loss in Ames where the offense absolutely sputtered under the pressure of the Iowa State crowd. They responded well afterwards, winning an emotional 42-41 game against Texas in Austin behind the heroics of quarterback Will Grier, who ran in the game winning two point conversion with under a minute left.
Up until a week ago, the Mountaineers were ranked 9th with long shot Playoff hopes still intact.
Who to Watch For:
#7 Will Grier, QB
Other than OU’s Kyler Murray, Will Grier has easily been the second best quarterback in the Big 12 and a Heisman candidate in his own right. Armed with a high powered offense, Grier has thrown for 300+ yards in all but one game, all while staying highly efficient. While he is not a threat to run, the Florida transfer is the best pocket passer in the country and is primer to carve up this Oklahoma defense.
#17 David Sills V, WR
As Grier’s number one target, David Sills V is going to be a problem for the Sooners. While his numbers are down from last season, Sills is a dangerous receiver that can break out for big yardage. He isn’t big, but as we saw with Oklahoma State’s Tylan Wallace and Texas Tech’s Antoine Wesley, elite small receivers are a massive threat to the Sooners. Expect a career day from Sills if things aren’t fixed.
Series History: 8-2 (Oklahoma)
As West Virginia has only been in the Big 12 since 2012, there is not a very deep history between the two schools. As non-conference foes, OU and WVU split the series at 2-2, with the most notable Mountaineer win coming in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl. However, West Virginia is winless against the Sooners as a member of the Big 12 and is the only team in the conference to have not beaten every conference team at least once.
The closest the Mountaineers got was in 2012, where West Virginia running back Tavon Austin ripped off an ungodly 572 all purpose yards between rushing, receiving and kickoff returns. The Sooners led at half 31-17 before the game turned into a shootout for the ages. Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones dominated, throwing for 544 yards and a then Oklahoma record six touchdowns, including the clutch game winner to Kenny Stills 24 seconds left in the game on 4th and 3.
With these two great offenses meeting in Morgantown six years later, one has to imagine that Friday’s game might be a shootout much like 2012. While much of the season has been spent analyzing the deficiencies of the Oklahoma defense, there is only one thing that matters: preventing “Take Me Home, Country Roads” from playing after the game.
Now that would be a critical stop.