Oklahoma vs. West Virginia Predictions and Picks: Against the Spread and Latest Odds
Oklahoma Sooners vs. West Virginia University Mountaineers
Point Spread: Oklahoma -16.5
Game Time: Saturday, 7:30 PM ET, ABC
Oklahoma vs. West Virginia Prediction
Out Of The Tunnel:
We all just assumed Spencer Rattler would become Baker Mayfield or Kyler Murray, or even Jalen Hurts. But, when you're the quarterback at Oklahoma, and your coach is the best in college football at developing the position, it's easy to connect the dots. Yet here we are, three weeks into the season, and Rattler and the OU offense looks nothing like it did under the Heisman Trophy winners (Mayfield, Murray) and finalist (Hurts) that preceded him. The big question: why?
It's not as simple as you think. Rattler has actually increased his completion percentage by seven points (74.7) from 2020. Still, the ball isn't going downfield as it did in previous seasons under Sooners coach/QB guru Lincoln Riley. Rattler's average yards per attempt is down a whopping two yards (7.7). Coaches and scouts measure that statistic with incremental moves, not full yards, and the OU offense struggled to reach 23 points last week against an outmanned Nebraska defense.
The Sooners aren't protecting on the offensive line as they have in the past, and Rattler still doesn't have a legitimate No.1 receiver. The passing game is a process: protection, receivers getting separation, and the quarterback throwing accurately. If one of the three is off, and right now, it's two of the three, the process bogs down. And OU, a College Football Playoff favorite in the preseason, looks anything but a contender now.
West Virginia rebounded last week from a season-opening loss to Maryland, where nearly everything went wrong. This time, WVU made critical plays in an upset of former Big East rival Virginia Tech. The first month of this season is a referendum of sorts on where the WVU program is headed under coach Neal Brown. It includes two rivalry games (Maryland and Virginia tech) and a game against Big 12 heavyweight Oklahoma. Brown got WVU back above .500 last season and has a three-year starter at quarterback and potentially his best defense in three years.
When Oklahoma Has The Ball:
Maybe it's not fair to compare Rattler and the OU offense to the previous offenses under Riley that, frankly, were among the top two or three in the nation. Rattler struggled early last season and was benched. However, he got better as the season progressed and got hot in the final month of the season-ending with a huge bowl game against a Florida team that was missing numerous key players that had opted out.
Despite what we've seen with the quarterback position for the Sooners, they're best when they effectively run the ball. Tailbacks Kennedy Brooks and Tennessee transfer Eric Gray are solid, but OU isn't getting the explosion plays from the run game it has in the past. The season's longest run is from backup freshman Quarterback Caleb Williams, who had a 59-yard run in a rout of FCS Western Carolina. The run game, too, has been impacted by an Offensive line that hasn't performed to the level of previous seasons.
When West Virginia Has The Ball:
Which Jarrett Doege shows up? The quarterback who struggled with ball security in a loss to Maryland, including a bad interception late in the Maryland end zone with WVU on the verge of taking the lead or the big play Doege, who made some big throws in an upset of Virginia Tech last week?
Here's what makes Doege better: senior Tailback Leddie Brown.
His ability to make defenders miss and his game-breaking speed is a big play waiting to happen. His 80-yard touchdown early against Virginia Tech set the tone and forced the Hokies to use safeties in run support.
That allowed Doege to throw more against man coverage early and let the Mountaineers take a 27-7 lead midway through the third quarter and eventually hold on.
WVU will find it much harder to run on the Oklahoma defense, which is giving up 83.3 yards per game. So this game will be won for WVU upfront. Can the Mountaineers control OU's best front four under Riley (including strong run stuffers Perrion Winfrey and Josh Ellison)?
The Bottom Line:
We've waited three weeks to see the Oklahoma offense perform as it has in the past (the Western Carolina game doesn't count). But, if we get through this weekend and the Sooners still struggle with a complete passing game, we're dangerously close to OU being what it is. Is that enough to win the Big 12? Probably. Is it enough to reach the College Football Playoff? Probably not.
Oklahoma vs. West Virginia Predictions and Pick
Prediction: Oklahoma 33, WVU 21
Pick: WVU +16.5 (-110)