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Picked to finish in the lower regions of the Big 12 conference in just their second season in the conference, West Virginia looked very much like a team headed in the wrong direction. The Mountaineers needed a 17-0 second half at home to beat William and Mary (they can be tougher to beat when they are both together) 24-17 as 32-point favorites.
“We're obviously excited to get out of the game with a victory," said WVU Coach Dana Holgorsen, which is likely not the same sentiment Mountaineers fans have. Holgorsen was hired away from Oklahoma State and considered an offensive mastermind, but opinions are beginning to shift about that thought process (Oklahoma State is still doing just fine thank you) and frowns are on the faces of West Virginia season ticket holders wondering if they really have the right coach.
It wasn’t the Barry Switzer days of running the wishbone, but Oklahoma rushed for 305 yards on 6.1 yards per carry against Louisiana-Monroe and routed the Warhawks 34-0 as 23-point favorites. Coach Bob Stoops acknowledged before the season the Sooners figured to less a passing team and with QB Trevor Knight running for 103 yards, this looks to be the case.
Oklahoma defense may be better sooner than expected
UL-Monroe last year knocked off Arkansas and could have beaten both Auburn and Baylor in the first month of the season and returned seven starters including quarterback Kolton Browning from a team that averaged 33.9 points a game (32nd nationally). For the Sooners to keep them off the scoreboard is a quality achievement.
"Defensively, it's one of the better games we've had in a long, long time," Stoops said. "All the assignments, the communication, was maybe as sharp as we've had." It was the team’s 14th shutout under Stoops leadership and quite possibly a sign Oklahoma players are becoming better at assignment football in defensive coordinator Mike Stoops second year at Norman.
West Virginia is clearly rebuilding
It is evident the “Air Raid” offense is on hold in Morgantown until the right quarterback and receivers emerge. Starting quarterback Paul Millard was efficient, but it was obvious he is not yet capable of throwing the ball down the field consistently and running back Charles Sims and the offensive line are the best options at the moment.
Betting News on this Big 12 Battle
Oklahoma opened as 17.5-point favorites in the college football odds and early action saw them rise, first to 18.5 and now to 20.5 since the end of August.
Oklahoma wins and covers this contest by taking away the ‘Teers running game and forcing them to throw on third and six or more frequently. The Sooners secondary has little reason to fear West Virginia’s wide receivers and if they just plug the running lanes and do not let Sims bounce outside, they can contain Coach Holgersen’s work in progress offense.
Oklahoma is 81-5 SU at Memorial Stadium under Stoops and 45-36-1 ATS as home favorite. The Sooners offensive mission is to create a maelstrom at the line of scrimmage and have the West Virginia linebackers become engaged, opening up running lanes for the running backs. This should open up the passing game for Knight.
West Virginia has many concerns and cannot afford to play tight. If Holgorsen trusts his quarterback, a good strategy would be to throw safe passes on first down in the five to seven yard range, to stay ahead of down and distance. DC Stoops will want to take away the Mountaineers run game, thus, if they think opposite, they could dictate the tempo and keep the Sooners off balance.
The ‘Teers defensive front three has to elevate the Oklahoma offensive line and allow the linebackers to fill gaps and make tackles. Contain on the quarterback is paramount and forcing turnovers on the Sooners side of the field would really help the offense.
Though the Sooners are only 19-17 ATS as conference home sports betting favorite and 26-28 ATS when favored by double digits in Big 12 conference action, the Mountaineers have too big a mountain to climb. Take the Sooners for your college football picks this week.
NCAA FB Pick: Bet Oklahoma -20.5 on the spread at 5Dimes
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