Big 12 Football: 4 Reasons West Virginia Will Surprise Oklahoma in Week 2
Despite struggling against William & Mary on Saturday, there are still signs that the West Virginia Mountaineers are a good enough team to possibly knock off the Oklahoma Sooners in Week 2.
Paul Millard looked good in the season opener and appeared to get a stronger hold on the offense as the game went along.
West Virginia's running game also improved with the addition of running back Charles Sims, and teams that can run the ball generally have a higher chance of beating the Sooners.
Check out more on these and other reasons why the Mountaineers could be due for an early season upset win in the Big 12.
1. Paul Millard Is a Better QB Than Trevor Knight
In his first game as Geno Smith's replacement, Millard appeared to fit right into Dana Holgorsen's high-octane offensive scheme. He threw for 237 yards, one touchdown and didn't throw an interception.
As a whole, the Mountaineers picked up 409 yards of total offense and converted 24 first downs with Millard under center against William & Mary.
Those are certainly better numbers than what Trevor Knight was able to do in his debut as Oklahoma's starting quarterback. Knight's stat line included just 86 yards passing on 11 of 28 completed attempts.
Millard is also far more experienced in big-time college football than Knight. Millard saw time in the Orange Bowl two seasons ago when the Mountaineers beat the Clemson Tigers, 70-33.
However, Knight is just one game into his college career and doesn't know yet what it's truly like to face Big 12 competition.
Traditionally, a better quarterback gives a team a good chance to win the game. And West Virginia has the edge in that department going into its game against the Sooners.
2. West Virginia Can Run the Ball, and Running Teams Can Beat Oklahoma
One of the biggest improvements in West Virginia's offense from last year to this one is its running game. And that is almost solely because of running back Charles Sims.
The Houston transfer racked up 120 yards and a score on just 23 carries against William & Mary. As a whole, the Mountaineers gained 172 yards on the ground just one season after ranking 47th in the country in team rushing.
In 2012, the two teams that beat Oklahoma in the regular season—Kansas State and Notre Dame—ran the ball extremely well.
The Wildcats gained 213 yards on the ground while the Fighting Irish picked up 215 with three different rushers getting over 60 yards.
The Mountaineers appear to be going to a more run-focused offense, and that is certainly the formula for beating Oklahoma in Norman.
3. The Mountaineers Defense Is Much Improved
West Virginia allowed just 309 yards of total offense on Saturday, one season after ranking 108th out of 120 FBS teams in total defense with an average of over 472 yards given up per game.
One of the stars of this year's defense is defensive back Karl Joseph, a sophomore who started all 13 games last year as a true freshman and accumulated 104 tackles.
Senior defensive lineman Will Clarke is also poised for a big year after racking up 26 tackles in 2012.
To beat Oklahoma, the Mountaineers have to have one of their best defensive showings in the past few years. And with plenty of experience on that unit, which is already showing improvement from last year, West Virginia may be able to rattle an inexperienced offensive unit.
4. The Mountaineers Already Have a Good Idea of How to Beat the Sooners
Regardless of any advantage the Mountaineers may have on paper against the Sooners, one thing is clear: West Virginia almost beat these guys last year.
In the 2012 matchup between these teams, it took a five-yard touchdown pass from Landry Jones to Kenny Stills with just 0:24 left in the game for the Sooners to beat the Mountaineers 50-49.
So plenty of people in the Mountaineers program, including head coach Dana Holgorsen, know what it takes to compete with the likes of Oklahoma. And they were only two points away from beating them.
Two points is easy to make up from one season to the next.
Obviously playing in Norman is a completely different animal than playing in front of your home crowd in Morgantown. But Kansas State and Notre Dame both proved last season that the Sooners aren't impervious at home.
If the Mountaineers go into Norman composed and unfazed by what is sure to be a raucous atmosphere, they'll have a great chance to knock off the perennial Big 12 powerhouse.