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Oklahoma prediction: After early close calls, can Sooners survive toughest test yet vs. WVU?

Oklahoma is looking to stay undefeated against the Mountaineers since they joined the Big 12 in 2012.

No. 4 Oklahoma vs. West Virginia

When: 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman

Records: Oklahoma (3-0, 0-0 Big 12); West Virginia (2-1, 0-0 Big 12)

Last meeting: Oklahoma defeated West Virginia 52-14 in 2019


Point Spread: Oklahoma, -17

What’s at stake?

Oklahoma looks to stay undefeated in 2021 and win the program’s 12th straight game dating back to early October of last season. The Sooners got off to a disastrous start in 2020, losing two of three games to start the year before turning things around. West Virginia was scheduled to play the Sooners right in the middle of that turn-around last year, first on Nov. 28, which was postponed, then on Dec. 12, which was outright canceled.

The Sooners avoided the catastrophic start in 2021, but they haven’t cruised through the first quarter of their schedule as easily as many expected them to. Before the season, it appeared as though Saturday’s game against West Virginia would be the first real “challenge” this Oklahoma team would face. Of course, OU got past Tulane by the skin of their teeth in Week 1 and they had to work to keep Nebraska from tying things up late last week.

This week for Oklahoma presents a chance to get their conference schedule off on the right foot and remain undefeated, both in 2021 and against West Virginia since they joined the Big 12. For the Mountaineers and head coach Neal Brown, with his 11-11 record in his time at WVU, it’s a chance at what would be a massive win for this program, and a potential job-saver for Brown.

When Oklahoma has the ball

West Virginia is easily the best defensive team that Oklahoma will have played thus far, and they’re capable of giving Spencer Rattler and the OU offense the kind of problems Nebraska was able to last Saturday. The Mountaineers, though, are more skilled up front than the Cornhuskers, and deeper as well, led by tackles Akheem Mesidor and Dante Stills. They’ve also got safety talent in Alonzo Addae, who had ten tackles and a sack last week in WVU’s win over Virginia Tech.

What version of the OU offense will we see? Anything resembling 2020? Or will the Mountaineers force the Sooners back into a slow-paced, dink-and-dunk offense as Nebraska did last week. If so, the Sooners could have a tougher time moving the ball on the ground against the WVU defensive front than they did with the Huskers. This could be the first game this season where it will be essential for the Sooners’ passing game to be firing, and the first where they’ll need Rattler’s right arm to win it for them.

Maryland’s Taulia Tagovailoa is one of the better quarterbacks in the country and he torched the Mountaineers in Week 1 to the tune of 300+ yards and 3 TDs while completing over 70% of his passes. If Rattler puts up anything close to those numbers, the Sooners will roll.

When West Virginia has the ball

If Alex Grinch’s ‘Speed D’ is for real, this could be a game where they feast. West Virginia’s offense has, at times so far this year, had trouble at quarterback, trouble on the offensive line, and trouble protecting the ball.

And the Sooners’ defensive front, coming off a great week against Nebraska, is hungry. DT Perrion Winfrey is having a breakout year, and he’s been causing all kinds of havoc for opposing offenses thus far. He’s already logged 2.5 sacks, and is currently rated as the fourth-best pass-rushing interior defender in the country, according to Pro Football Focus.

With Jalen Redmond expected to be out for about a month due to a small meniscus tear, the depth on the line will be tested. But Lincoln Riley and Alex Grinch have been heavily reliant on a rotating defensive front, so backups like Isaiah Coe and Josh Ellison have been getting snaps and making the most of them.

West Virginia quarterback Jarret Doege could be in for a long game, especially if the Sooners can jump ahead early (keeping what’s sure to be a wild night-game crowd at The Palace engaged) and force the Mountaineers to be more reliant on the passing game, subjecting themselves more to the OU rush.


Oklahoma’s performance thus far in 2021 hasn’t done much to inspire national confidence in their championship hopes, but Lincoln Riley was optimistic in his Tuesday press conference.

“We’ve had some periods where we’ve played phenomenal,” Riley said. “We’ve got to be able to sustain it, to have more consistency across the board. We don’t need anybody to be a lot better, we just need everybody to be a little bit better.”

The Sooners, primarily on the offensive side of the ball, need to play better than they have, starting now as they enter Big 12 conference play and moving forward. West Virginia is an imperfect team but they’re coming off a win over a tough Virginia Tech squad, and they’re good enough to punish OU’s mistakes in ways that Tulane and Nebraska were unable.

But ultimately they’re outgunned. OU has NFL talent all over the field, and the Mountaineers aren’t going to be able to hang with them for more than two or three quarters. Once the point totals get up into the 30s and 40s, West Virginia doesn’t have the ammunition to keep up, especially not in a Sooners’ home night game, and especially not against this surging Oklahoma defense.

Score: Oklahoma 43, West Virginia 24


Find more Oklahoma coverage from The Dallas Morning News here.

R.J. Coyle, Oklahoma Sooners blogger. Covers Oklahoma sports for The Dallas Morning News. @coylio33
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