OSU vs. The Big 12: West Virginia

It has been awhile since our last edition of this series. It was our hope was to have most of them completed before college football preseason magazines began arriving, but we were only able to get about halfway there. The off-the-field situation with Devon Thomas kept busy late last week and, fortunately, Oklahoma State baseball kept us busy this past weekend, and that is a good thing.

But now it's time to get back to it as we have yet to find an opponent in Big 12 play that we feel the Cowboys can't (shouldn't) beat.

One of the Cowboys two losses last season was to West Virginia. I'm not in the business of bursting the balloon of Dana Holgorsen, I like Dana. Joe DeForest is a friend too, and he is up there in Morgantown.

However, there were two reasons that Oklahoma State lost that day at West Virginia. The first was that the players and coaches, remember it's the coaching staff that sets the tone, overlooked the Mountaineers. West Virginia was coming off that awful non-conference loss in Baltimore to a very average Maryland team by a 37-0 score that on paper and on video had a way of inflating an upcoming opponents confidence.

Before the game that day even the West Virginia people were sincerely asking for kindness and mercy.

The second reason was the outstanding game plan defensively that then Mountaineers defensive coordinator Keith Patterson had implemented. Patterson mixed up his blitzes and was able to have success with his coverages, especially on the outside receivers with some mixes of man and zone, and even some split coverage.

Patterson is gone and former Penn State defensive line coach Tony Gibson jumps in as the defensive coordinator. Holgorsen's staff has had a lot of upheaval and that doesn't help.

This season the Mountaineers come back to Stillwater. Entering the season, Holgorsen is listed on everybody's "coach's on the hot seat" list.

His offense has been relegated to more of a pedestrian pace primarily due to the quarterback and receiver positions. Not having a Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon like he did in Stillwater, or a Geno Smith and Tavon Austin like he had early at WVU, makes a difference.

Clint Trickett did not even participate in the spring and he still is listed number one at the position. It is an indictment of the quarterback position that nobody could make a serious run at the job. Incoming freshman William Crest is considered a candidate to get involved in August.

Dreamius Smith, a star at Butler County Community College in Kansas that Oklahoma State also recruited, is set to go at running back. So is Wendell Smallwood, Rushel Shell and Dustin Garrison make this a really deep position. All of them can play.

Mario Alford is a playmaker at one of the wide receiver positions but the rest of the group is just okay. Kevin White is experienced at the other wide position. The offensive line is in a make-over situation and the experience is just okay. West Virginia needs a lot of improvement here.

The West Virginia offense will be a good matchup for the Cowboys defensively. They will be young down the middle in the passing game, so the concerns minimize a little bit in coverage. As for pass rush and controlling the line of scrimmage, this could be a situation where the Cowboys dominate at the point of attack and dictate where that point is.

There is a lot of fan fare and credit going the way of new defensive coordinator Tony Gibson. Gibson will work out of a 3-3-5 base defense and that won't be a critical adjustment in the passing game coming straight from playing at TCU where they play the 4-2-5.

On the defensive line the Mountaineers lost playmakers Will Clarke and Shaq Rowell. Kyle Rose, at the nose, is a solid player and the rest will be an adventure early in the year. Nick Kwiatkoski is a stout player at linebacker and was a factor in the game a year ago.

Isaiah Bruce moves to the strong side linebacker from a strong safety position last season and he has adapted well. He plays very aggressive. Honestly, the linebacker position is a strength for Gibson and his defense.

In the secondary, Karl Joseph is a former running back who has stuck at safety. Daryl Worley and Ishmael Banks as corners make for a strong duo guarding the outside. I like the secondary a lot, but these team has holes, primarily on offense and adjustments to make, primarily on defense.

In Stillwater, the Cowboys with use the memory of last season and provided they are 5-0 in Big 12 as we project, this could be a huge game. Remember Texas Tech last season? They started out 4-0 in conference and lost the next five in a row. The Cowboys will have played Texas Tech, Iowa State, Kansas, TCU and West Virginia and then they face Kansas State, Texas, Baylor, and OU down the stretch. After the Mountaineers this fall, for the Cowboys it's stretch time.

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