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West Virginia Mountaineers at Oklahoma Sooners: Preview and Pick
West Virginia Mountaineers at Oklahoma Sooners: Preview and Pick
The college football season hits week two with a very intriguing game in the Big 12 conference. The West Virginia Mountaineers will travel to Norman Oklahoma to take on the Sooners. The Mountaineers had a tough time playing defense a year ago, but with a new outlook on the season they are hoping to make a statement against one of the best teams in the country in the Oklahoma Sooners.
West Virginia Mountaineers at Oklahoma Sooners Odds
The Sooners enter this gamer ranked No. 16 in the college football rankings and since they are at home it comes as no surprise that they are big favorites in this contest. The odds makers opened up this line with the Sooners being (-19.5) point favorites and that number continues to creep upward as we get closer to kickoff.
With 74 percent of the betting public on the home team it is easy to see why this number can be found as high as (-20.5) at several top rated online sportsbooks.
Do the Mountaineers have what it takes to pull off the upset?
The short answer is, probably not, but with some huge upsets in week one of the college football season we have realized rather quickly that anything can happen.
The Sooners are led by Trevor Knight, a redshirt freshman, who rushed for 103 yards on 13 carries and threw three touchdown passes in the season opening victory. Knight became the first Oklahoma quarterback to rush for 100 or more yards in a game since Jason White had 117 yards rushing against Kansas on Oct. 13, 2001. He will be the focal point of a West Virginia defense that aims to improve from a season ago.
West Virginia sealed the win in week one against William and Mary but they made it look difficult. The Mountaineers need a late score by Wendell Smallwood to overcome a deficit and avoid the upset in the first week of the season.
The college football betting trends show that for as bad as they looked in the first game of the season, the Mountaineers play some good football on the road. They are 10-4 straight up in the last 14 games that they have played on the road, although they are just 2-4 against the spread (ATS) in the last six games on the road.
OU is only 1-4 ATS in the last five games at home, but they are 21-4 straight up in the last 25 games at home. It is highly doubtful that the Sooners lose, but this spread will be tough to beat.
West Virginia Mountaineers at Oklahoma Sooners Pick
With plenty of time to go before game day, I will wait to release my pick on this game until we get closer to kickoff.
The West Virginia Mountaineers weren't spectacular in their season opening 24-17 win over William & Mary. Its unknown if the lackluster performance against the Tribe was a result of vanilla game planning or if they had legitimate struggles. Coach Stoops seems to think that it was the former and honestly that's probably the most cautious approach to take.
Offensively the Mountaineers moved the ball well against William & Mary, racking up 237 yards through the air and and 172 on the ground. After struggling to put points on the board in the first half, West Virginia scored seventeen unanswered in the final thirty minutes. Quarterback Paul Millard completed nearly 63% of his passes for 237 yards and a touchdown without any interceptions. His primary target was freshman Daikiel Shorts who caught seven passes for 63 yards at an average of 9.0 yards per catch.
Transfer Charles Sims had a successful debut for the Mountaineers. He carried the ball 23 times for 120 yards and scored on an 11-yard run. West Virginia looks strong on the ground again, averaging nearly four yards per carry as a team.
"Definitely still think about last year. It was just horrible on our part. Giving up almost 800 yards on defense is ridiculous. We definitely are excited about this game" said safety Gabe Lynn.
There's no doubt that this game is a chance at a little bit of redemption for an Oklahoma defense that struggled in the game last season. Despite last week's struggles, the Mountaineers most likely will provide a stronger challenge to the Oklahoma defense that ULM did in the opener.
The point of attack for the Sooners should be right up front where OU experienced tremendous success last Saturday night and the Mountaineers had a few issues. William & Mary was able to record two quarterback sacks and make four other tackles for loss, giving them a total of six plays made in the West Virginia backfield but also had two additional quarterback hurries.
The truth about the West Virginia offense is that it is probably somewhere between what we saw on the field last season and what we saw last Saturday against William & Mary.
Defensively the Mountaineers are still a bit of a mystery. Like most of the Big Twelve, West Virginia was in need of a hefty amount of improvement. Just how much they've improved has yet to be seen in full. After surrendering 17 first half points on Saturday, they pitched a second half shutout. Sophomore linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski led the team with seven total tackles and, like William & Mary, the Mountaineers were able to make some plays in the offensive backfield as well. With a quarterback sack and two other tackles for loss, WVU had three made plays behind the line of scrimmage. They also had three other quarterback hurries.
It may be strength on strength Saturday as Oklahoma's offense goes against the West Virginia Defense. The Sooners ran for over 300 yards against Louisiana Monroe last Saturday night and the Mountaineers held William & Mary to an average of 3.3 yards per carry.
Last year's game in Morgantown was one for the ages...as far as offensive football goes, but it may have set defensive football back a decade or so. Both teams are looking to prove they're better on that side of the ball, and with both offenses retooling this year, it may be the defenses that steal the show this Saturday.
After an offseason filled with questions and doubt, Oklahoma left Saturday's 34-0 rout of Louisiana-Monroe with plenty of reasons to feel optimistic.
Sure, many of Trevor Knight's early passes were erratic. And yes, it's impossible to know how good the Warhawks really are after one game.
Still, one would be hard pressed to view Saturday's season opener as anything less than a good, positive start. Best of all? The next few weeks set up quite nicely for a promising, if inexperienced, team featuring a first-year quarterback and several new defensive starters debuting brand new schemes.
The Sooners host West Virginia in their Big 12 opener Saturday, then get Tulsa at home and a bye before a huge test at Notre Dame on Sept. 28.
Oklahoma's defense looked much more aggressive than it did much of last season against Louisiana-Monroe. The Sooners' 3-3-5 scheme worked well, allowing five defensive backs to counter the Warhawks' passing attack while keeping linebackers on the field to stuff the run game.
Everyone remembers Mike Stoops' disastrous late-2012 schemes that involved no linebackers, but the unit actually lost its playmaking ability early last season, when it was ordered to fill gaps and filter tackles to defensive backs.
Judging from Saturday's performance, Oklahoma's linebackers look like playmakers again. Corey Nelson and Frank Shannon combined for 15 tackles, and Nelson recorded a sack.
The Sooners' defensive line, thought to be the team's weakest link, played well, applying strong pressure to ULM quarterback Kolton Browning. Still, OU's defenders reiterated that they weren't completely satisfied with the shutout performance, the first since 2010.
On his first collegiate touchdown pass, Trevor Knight wasn't the first Sooner to celebrate with Jalen Saunders but he wasn't far behind. Early in the second quarter of Saturday's 34-0 win over Louisiana-Monroe, the redshirt freshman connected with Saunders for a 12-yard touchdown pass. Lacoltan Bester met with Saunders first, then Knight was the next person there, out-jumping Saunders as the two celebrated.
It was another indication about the difference between this year's team and the Sooners of recent memory. Landry Jones celebrated touchdowns and other big plays, to be sure, but not with the same emotion as Knight. Jones' typical celebration was a pair of fingers raised to the sky. Knight's appears to be jumping higher than his receivers.
Sooners coach Bob Stoops downplayed the differences.
“They're all different, of course. Landry is different than Sam (Bradford); Sam is different from Jason (White); Jason is different from Josh (Heupel),” Stoops said. “None of them are the same, but they're all good.”
Knight might not be doing any more jumps, though.
Georgia wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell tore his anterior cruciate ligament in a similar celebration in the Bulldogs' loss to Clemson on Saturday. Mitchell was jumping into running back Todd Gurley, who had just scored.
That led to Stoops having a conversation with his players earlier this week.
“I told my guys if you're gonna chest-bump, go up about that high,” Stoops said, motioning low. “Just barely get off the ground. I told them Monday when we broke the thing, just go up about that much.”
Stoops said he expected his players to be mindful of the injury potential moving forward. “I've seen it over and over. It's crazy. I said, ‘Why would you make yourself susceptible to hurting something?'” Stoops said. “I don't like it. Man, just stay on the ground. You come down awkward and the grass or turf can grab. It doesn't take much, obviously.”
Running back Damien Williams said the older players had to keep that in check at times, mentioning injury as well. “As a young guy, you've got to try to keep him calm,” Williams said. “You don't want him going in there and jumping in there with everybody all the time. Guys can get hurt doing that also. He's a young guy, and this is his first time going around with it. He can do it but as the year goes on, he'll get more settled in.”
Knight appeared to get more settled in as Saturday's game progressed.
Of his first 11 passes against ULM, nine were off the mark, though Bester was able to grab one for a completion on a ball thrown behind him. The 12th was the on-the-money throw to Saunders for his first touchdown.
Knight wound up throwing two more touchdowns, the other two in his final four throws. Of his 11 throws that were on target Saturday, four came in those final four throws.
“It was his first game and first collegiate game ever,” Saunders said. “I kind of expected him to be a little nervous. We talked after the game and I'm looking forward to the next game and later in the season for him to be a more composed and an older-type player. I've been saying that he's real mature for his age. I think Trevor is doing very well.”
When Knight was named the starter over Blake Bell, Ikard noticed a change.
“Once he knew it was his job, he kind of flipped a switch where he was a more vocal guy, took more of a leadership role right away,” Ikard said. “We understand that he's a redshirt freshman. We don't want him to have to get out of his comfort zone but he's one of those guys, he's always been a leader. At the quarterback position, that's what you want.”
Oklahoma is ready to host teh Mountaineers and feed on a weak defense. The Sooners are 21-9 ATS in their last 30 games after accumulating more than 200 yards rushing in their previous game and the Mountaineers are 3-8 ATS when they go up against a winning team. Stoops has a young team and he wanst to keep them focused from week to week and they win big.