It's just about time for Oklahoma and West Virginia to kick off Big 12 play. With that in mind, Sooners Illustrated has asked BlueGoldNews.com publisher Kevin Kinder for his take on the Sooners and Mountaineers.
Is this the best West Virginia defense you have seen?
No. The 1996 squad was a true shutdown defense, which was number one in the nation in yards allowed and rushing yards allowed. Eight players on that defense were drafted by the NFL. This year's defense can be very good, and has a number of NFL prospects of its own. It's chief strength lies in its experience - fifth-year seniors across the linebacking spots, for example. There's not much this unit hasn't seen, and it shouldn't panic if opposing teams do find something that works for a while. It's savvy enough to make adjustments and keep the Mountaineers in the game.
Daryl Worley was suspended for this game last year. How big of a difference will he make in this game?
Worley was a key loss for WVU last year, although OU won the game on the ground. The Mountaineers had to be more pass conscious, and that did hurt them somewhat. His presence makes WVU very balanced in the secondary, and OU won't be able to pick on one side or the other exclusively.
A lot of the talk is on the defense, but what does quarterback Skyler Howard bring to the table? What's his biggest strength?
His ability to avoid pressure and turnovers is big. He doesn't have a cannon for an arm, but he puts the ball where only West Virginia players can catch it. His only pick in a Mountaineer uniform came off a deflected ball last week. He can also avoid pressure, although he's not going to run away form OU's speedy edge rushers, he can avoid a tackle and buy more time to throw. His decision-making in an offense that demands a lot from its QB has been excellent.
Who is the one player, on either side of the ball, that you feel is ready to have that breakout game?
Jovon Durante, even though he has been very good for a true freshman. The wide receiver must get open and produce big plays if WVU is to match OU's scoring ability.
Following the first three games, is there anything that is surprising to you? Concerning?
It has been pretty much as expected for the Mountaineers. They had to win all three of their non-conference games, and they did so in convincing fashion. The production of Durante and Shelton Gibson at wide receiver has been a bit above what has been expected, but so far it has been an on-schedule season for West Virginia.