Oklahoma and West Virginia will square off in Morgantown in Week 12, as the Sooners continue to push for a spot in a BCS bowl game via the at-large berth.
OU survived the Baylor Bears, 42-34, although the defense played very well against one of the nation's top passing attacks. Against Geno Smith and these deadly inside receivers, the Sooners' secondary will have to have a similar performance.
Four straight losses. That's the stat that will characterize this season for West Virginia, a number that could go up if they can't find a way to pull off the upset this weekend. Oklahoma State was the latest team to drop big numbers on this WVU defense, a trend that's disturbing for coach Dana Holgorsen.
OU has shown weaknesses in various stages of its game, and it'll be up to Smith to exploit them if his team wants to make national headlines for the first time since a loss to Kansas State.
Here's an early preview for this Big 12 showdown, with everything you need to know about both teams before Saturday arrives.
When: Saturday, November 17 at 7 p.m. ET
Where: Mountaineer Field; Morgantown, West Virginia
Betting Line: OU -10.5 (according to Vegas Insider)
These are two teams that expected to both be in a position of power when this meeting occurred. Instead, West Virginia continues to tread water after a fourth straight loss and Oklahoma has sights on a BCS berth.
To impress voters, Oklahoma needs to dismantle the Mountaineers the way others have at various points in the season—namely the way Kansas State did earlier in the year.
Injury Report via USA TODAY (as of 11/12/12)
Gabe Ikard (OL) could be back after missing Week 10 against Baylor. He's day-to-day.
No new injuries to report after Week 11.
BCS/Top 25 Implications
West Virginia has been out of the Top 25 for quite some time, and an upset like this one wouldn't put them back in any time soon. It would wreck OU's chances for a BCS bowl, and likely put them in the bottom tier of the BCS standings.
It's win or go home mode for the Sooners, and there's a lot to play for still ahead in the road.
What They're Saying
ESPN's Brett McMurphy has noted a troubling trend in the last four opponents for West Virginia, all losses for the Mountaineers. It seems they are pretty good at garnering awards for the other team.
Last 4 West Virginia opponents have had player named Big 12 offensive player of week. Oklahoma on deck this week— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) November 12, 2012
Look for Landry Jones and the receivers to be the recipients of that attention, as OU will likely try to spread the field and get quick strikes against a secondary that has been very poor.
It also looks like OU will have help on the offensive line. From Mike Helka of the Dallas Morning News, the O-Line looks to have starters back in place by Saturday.
Right guard Bronson Irwin (ankle), left guard Adam Shead (ankle), left tackle Lane Johnson (ankle) and center Gabe Ikard (concussion-like symptoms) could all be ready this week after each missed time in recent games. Ikard, who is a leader on the line, missed last week’s 42-34 win over Baylor.
Oklahoma Player to Watch: QB Landry Jones
Jones is always the catalyst for this OU team. When he's gone, the school will lose one of college football's most prolific passers of all-time, yet he's underappreciated by fans because he hasn't been able to lead a talented team to an undefeated mark.
This is another game that will point towards his final legacy. If he can win and keep the ship pointed towards the BCS, he'll have a final chance to prove how much he has grown since taking over as the starter for Sam Bradford. Lose, and the chants for Blake Bell won't come soon enough.
West Virginia Player to Watch: QB Geno Smith
From Heisman winner to top prospect, Smith had it all in the first five weeks of the season. Then he met Collin Klein. The two men have had remarkably different paths down the stretch, and Smith is fighting to gain bowl eligibility while Klein now has the first two designations.
Smith will still be an elite QB prospect heading into the draft. Scouts will be more worried with his pocket presence and accuracy in games like this than they will his ability to win, because the country has seen how bad his defense has really been.
This is a statement game for his draft stock, and if he can lead the team to a victory it would be an even darker check mark on his resume.
Key Storyline: West Virginia playing with nothing to lose
Out of the BCS picture and out of their own conference's good graces, what does West Virginia have to lose? They'll likely have to score 60 points to beat Oklahoma, but why can't they do it?
Who you got?
This offense put up 70 earlier this season. It's going to take that kind of carefree attitude to compete with OU, who will no doubt double-cover Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin. Can WVU lay it all on the line and have enough gas to beat the Sooners? We'll find out on Saturday.
Oklahoma has too much to lose to drop this very winnable game against West Virginia. The spread is a little low, but the Sooners have too much talent and cohesion on both sides of the ball to ruin their BCS hopes in this one. Plus, they get one of the worst defenses in the nation with little end in sight to the tackling woes.
Oklahoma 50, West Virginia 31
Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for B/R's Breaking News Team.