Oklahoma will play host to West Virginia on Saturday. Here’s a look at the key Big 12 clash.
1. Home-field advantage: Will the Sooner faithful come early and be in their seats before the 11:07 (Central) kickoff on FS1? Will they be excruciatingly loud when WVU has the ball? Will all the OU students be front and center? If any of these questions are not answered with an emphatic “YES!”, then why?
2. Sooner ground game: Best way to keep Mountaineers’ Air Raid offense that actually runs first and passes second off the field is for OU to be able to make first downs, and running the ball is the key to that as well as controlling the clock and shortening the game. Perine, Mixon and Brooks need to have stout days with no turnovers. Will the OU offensive line rise to the occasion?
3. WVU defense: Many experts say that offensive guru Daba Holgorsen has the best defense in the Big 12. I’m not ready to concede that based on who they have played, but they do have multiple defensive players who will likely be earning a living on Sunday’s in the future. However, WVU’s defense is better than the Tennessee unit that shut down OU’s offense for over three quarters.
4. Mark Andrews: The tight end can be an effective weapon as we saw against Tulsa and is a great safety net for a scrambling Baker Mayfield. At 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, Andrews is a matchup nightmare and hopefully No. 81 gets ample touches Saturday. The receiving corp in general needs to have a productive day.
5. Kicking game: This first Big 12 game feels more like a playoff game and it could come down to who wins the kicking game in varying forms. Sooners are due to be more productive in that phase of the game, specifically the return game. Are you OK with a true freshman perhaps having to withstand the pressure of winning a game with his leg? I am.
6. Tackling: Yards after the catch or yards after contact are oftentimes the result of poor tackling. Getting the opposition to the ground efficiently and physically is imperative. This football fundamental has been in play as long as has the pigskin itself and it has never been more important than this week and the stakes will continue to rise until basketball season.
7. Baker Mayfield – While not the leading candidate for the Heisman, No. 6 is in the discussion. For Mayfield, getting a win for his team is infinitely more important than any individual honor, but another eyebrow raising performance in a Big 12 game versus a good team would help the former walk-on’s cause to earn OU another coveted Heisman Trophy.
The spread started at around 8 or 9, with WVU getting the points and as of a few hours ago it was down to +6.5 for the Mountaineers according to the serious players in Las Vegas. I think this is a Slobber Knocker of a Saturday and will be one of the most intense, $2 steak tough games of the season. WVU has never beaten OU since joining the Big 12. Are they due? Hopefully not just yet.
Prediction: Oklahoma 28 West Virginia 24
J.R. is an Oklahoma native who lives in Norman with his wife Jan. He’s a WWE Hall of Fame broadcaster, two time New York Times Best Selling author, and is recognized as the “Voice of Pro Wrestling” after a 40-year career in the field. His podcast, The Ross Report, can be heard on iTunes weekly and is one of the most listened to podcasts in the world. JR’s line of BBQ Sauces, Chipotle Ketchup, Jalapeno Honey Mustard, and All Purpose Seasoning/Dry Rub are available at the three Norman Homeland Grocery Stores and online at www.wweshop.com.