The West Virginia Mountaineers will face their most challenging matchup of the year this Saturday when the team travels west to face the Oklahoma Sooners. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:45 p.m. (ET) and the game will be televised on ESPN. The Sooners are the best team in the Big-12 and are looking to continue their impressive season. A win against West Virginia is one step closer to the college football playoffs for the talented Sooner team. West Virginia on the other hand is coming off a disappointing home loss to the lackluster Texas Longhorns last week. Not only did the Mountaineers lose the game they also lost their best player for the remainder of the season. Quarterback Will Grier suffered a gruesome finger injury early in the game before having to leave to the locker room. Rehab from surgery will keep the talented thrower off the field for the rest of the season. With a backup quarterback, Chris Chugunov, starting for the first time in his college career the Mountaineers are a definite underdog facing the number three ranked team in the country.
Defense has shown positive improvement for the Mountaineers over the past few weeks. The unique 3-3-5 defensive unit has only allowed an average of 26 points over the last three games of Big-12 competition. The defense will have to slow down the potent Oklahoma offense to give their offense a chance to stay in the game. Oklahoma head coach, Lincoln Riley, announced Heisman Trophy candidate Baker Mayfield will not start the game as his punishment for inappropriate actions in his last game. The Mountaineer defense must take advantage of Oklahoma’s backup quarterback, Kyler Murray, to give their replacement signal caller a chance. Against Texas last week cornerback Kenny Robinson took an interception to the house that kept the Mountaineers in position to win. The defense will have to make similar plays this week.
Running the ball effectively is the next step in keeping pressure off the Chugunov for his first start. Senior running back Justin Crawford will need a big day to keep the Mountaineers in this game. Crawford keeping the time of possession in favor of WVU can slow down the Sooner’s high scoring team. With Grier being injured running option play with the quarterback keeping the ball may not actually be an option. Chris Chugunov has not shown he can make plays with his feet in relief of Grier. Running backs will be on their own and expected to make plays Saturday.
The coaching staff will need to take it easy on Chugunov when it comes to play calling. The short passing game should be used effectively on early downs to keep the offense from finding themselves on third and long. Screen passes to both receivers and running backs can keep the ball from getting stuck in Chugunov’s hand. Saving the deep shots for the right moments in the game will be goal of the coaching staff. Grier can make a big play out of nothing by holding the ball and escaping the pocket to find a wide receiver down field. That type of play should not be expected from Chugunov but for the Mountaineers to win the young quarterback will have to leave his comfort zone and make those big plays.
I believe this will be a competitive game until near the end. Oklahoma should come away with a victory like they are expected too. It will be difficult for the Mountaineers to keep up the scoring pace especially if they fall behind before Mayfield enters the game. Oklahoma should win 37-24.