Week 2 - West Virginia at Oklahoma
Oklahoma QB Trevor Knight
Oklahoma QB Trevor Knight
Posted Sep 4, 2013

Week 2 Fearless Prediction & Preview - West Virginia at Oklahoma

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West Virginia (1-0) at Oklahoma (1-0) Sept. 7, 7:00, FOX

Why You Should Give A Hoot: It got lost in the shuffle, but last season's 50-49 Oklahoma win over West Virginia was one of the year's best games. The Mountaineers were on a four-game losing streak and were exposed for being a product of their soft early season schedule, but they managed to come up with a whale of a performance led by Tavon Austin's 344 rushing yards and two scores. OU's Landry Jones threw his sixth touchdown pass of the game with 24 seconds to play to pull off the win and keep Big 12 title hopes alive.

This year, West Virginia is in a major rebuilding mode, and it showed in a sluggish and sloppy 24-17 win over William & Mary. The offense perked up in the second half rally, and the defense stiffened after allowing 17 first half points, but the downfield big plays weren't there like last season and the offense was more effective than explosive. Even so, considering Kansas State and Iowa State lost their FCS matchups, the Mountaineers got out alive, and with an upset win over the Sooners, the entire tone of the Big 12 could quickly change.

Oklahoma is also rebuilding a bit, but it had no problem whatsoever against a dangerous ULM team that was last year's early-season upset darling. The defense was phenomenal, keeping Kolton Browning under wraps and allowing just 166 total yards, and while the offense might have been a bit rocking throwing the ball, the ground game made up for it.

This is when the Sooner D has to show just how far it's come since late last year. There might not be an Austin, or a Geno Smith, or a Stedman Bailey around anymore running the WVU attack, but the playbook is about to be opened up and the offense might start to explode – at least that's the expectation. With Tulsa next week and Notre Dame to follow, OU will have a fun rest of the month, but first, it's time to start defending its Big 12 crown. The Mountaineers want to even the all-time series at three apiece.

Why West Virginia Might Win: Make the new guy throw. Trevor Knight had an interesting debut for the Sooners, throwing three touchdown passes and running for a team-leading 103 yards, but he struggled with his accuracy and consistency. The scores and key plays came off of his scrambling and mobility, and the Mountaineer defensive front has to be ready. William & Mary might not be the right indicator, but WVU did a nice job of keeping the quick Tribe runners from doing much outside. Nick Kwiatkoski and Darwin Cook came up with excellent support, while nose tackle Shaq Rowell gummed up the works on the inside. The secondary got dinked on, but it only broke down a few times. Against Knight, the D will take its chances deep.

Why Oklahoma Might Win: The Sooner defense will keep everything in front of it. ULM didn't generate anything whatsoever down the field, with its longest play just 14 yards. The pop and explosion might not be there like West Virginia could potentially show, but the defense still did its job of wrapping up and not getting beaten deep. The Mountaineers came up with a 69-yard pass play to Ronald Carswell last week, but beyond that it was a lot of midrange passes that didn't go anywhere until the second half. The Mountaineers went 2-for-10 on third downs, and they'll be in several third-and-long situations this week.

Who To Watch Out For: So really, how did Knight do? After all the hype and all of the pressure following the quarterback battle with Blake Bell, he handled himself well. He threw an interception, and he only completed 11-of-28 passes, but he gave the offense what it needed on the ground and he spread his throws around relatively well. There's work to do, but with this defense, as long as he's keeping the chains moving and not turning the ball over, he'll be doing his job.

- West Virginia needed help to take the pressure off of quarterback Paul Millard, and Charles Sims provided it running 23 times for 120 yards and a score. The 6-0, 213-pound transfer from Houston showed a good burst through the line and a little bit of power, but he's not going to average over five yards per carry like he did last week. As long as he's putting the offense in the occasional 2nd-and-short, Millard will be fine.
- Can the Sooners afford to start pressing a bit? There's way too much explosion and talent in the receiving corps to not start utilizing the downfield passing game a bit more. West Virginia's secondary isn't bad, but this is the game to start testing the limits of the attack.
- West Virginia can't play it safe. It didn't take a whole slew of chances against William & Mary, and it can't start forcing things that aren't there, but its defense isn't going to be a rock, especially if the OU receiving corps gets into a groove early on and Knight finds a rhythm. Head coach Dana Holgorsen needs to be prepared for a firefight.

What Will Happen: The shootout of last year is going to be a distant memory. The Sooner defense will focus on stopping Sims and make Millard try to win the game – he won't be able to do it. Knight will come up with another nice game on the ground, and another mediocre day through the air, but in the end, OU won't have a problem.
Prediction: Oklahoma 31 … West Virginia 14
Line: Oklahoma -20.5 o/u: 57
Must See Rating: (5 Olbermann – 1 Total Divas) … 3