Musings, Matchups and More: Oklahoma Edition

This Week's MM&M looks like your cable or satellite system. We've got climate impact (The Weather Channel), retrospectives (History Channel), and ground assaults (Military Channel). Luckily, there's no Oprah Winfrey Network representation.

BlueGoldNews.com Game Scorecard
Sat 9/7 7:00 PM EST

Norman, OK

Gaylord Family
Memorial Stadium
Record: 1-0

Last Game
W&M 24-17 W
TV: FOX

Sirius\XM: 132/192

Web: BlueGoldNews.com

Record: 1-0

Last Game
La Monroe 34-0 W
Rosters/ Bios
Press Release
Season Stats
2013 Schedule

Series: OU 3-2

First Meeting: 1958
Last Meeting: 2012
Rosters/Bios
Press Release
Season Stats
2013 Schedule

MATCH-UPS, MUSINGS AND MORE

On Monday, I watched West Virginia's 1982 and 2008 wins over Oklahoma with some friends. I didn't watch last year's game, partly becasue WVU lost, and partly because it will have absolutely no bearing on Saturday night's contest.

Despite those two wins (and last year's loss), I've long maintained that "trends" in a series mean little -- that each team is different each year, and that what happened last year has no effect on how the current game will play our. Sure, there are some carryovers in terms of personnel, and some tactics that can be adjusted to try to take advantage of certain situations, but the way a game played out a year ago (or, in this case, 31 years ago in West Virginia's last trip to Norman), usually doesn't have an effect.

For example, you're not going to see OU play one of the worst-conceived defenses known to man as it did a year ago. West Virginia isn't going to put Jordan Thompson or Daikiel Shorts at running back. There are going to be a whole new set of dynamics in play, such as...

* * *

...a focus on the the run. With two new quarterbacks, well-stocked backfields and some success behind them from game one, both the Sooners and Mountaineers will again try to ramp up their running attacks. Contrary to the opinion of some writers, who believe that West Virginia will have to throw the ball 40 times to win, the likelihood is that the opposite will occur -- the team that can run the ball and throw only when it wants to is going to be the winner. If WVU has to air it out 45 times, the score is most likely going to be ugly in the wrong direction.

Understand that's not a knock on Mountaineer quarterback Paul Millard, who has take some subtle jabs from some media and fans this week. West Virginia's passing game can be effective, but it's not all on Millard. Receivers have to show the ability to get open, which they didn't do consistently, or nearly enough, last week. Guys on the receiving end have to catch the ball. And yes, Millard has to be more accurate on out patterns, especially on those third down routes that are critical in keeping the chains moving. But it also has to run it in order to stay out of second-and-long and third-and-long situations, which were drive killers a week ago.

Both teams prospered on the ground in their openers, with the Sooners being effective with the scrambling and options runs of Trevor Knight, while the Mountaineers rode their heavily stocked running back position. The one with the better performance on Saturday night leads its team to victory.

* * *

Will the heat of the Oklahoma summer give West Virginia trouble? It was 100 degrees in OU's home opener a week ago, but common wisdom holds that with this game being at night, the effects will be negligible. That, like so many other widely-held perceptions, is false. As of this writing, the predicted temperature at kickoff will be 90, and combined with the abnormally cool summer the Mountain State experienced this summer, there could be some issues for WVU. Obviously, the training and strength and conditioning staff will be extra vigilant about hydration in the days leading up to the game, but there's just not a great way to simulate the draining effects of high heat if you haven't been working in it for several days at least.

What's more, the thermometer won't show much relief as the game progresses. Three hours after kickoff, the mercury is only predicted to drop four degrees, so combatting it will be a game-long proposition. Of course, neither the coaches or players will use that excuse should things go awry, but it's clearly going to be a factor, and saying it isn't won't change the reality of the situation.


A NUMBER WORTH COUNTING

Eight is the number in the spotlight this week -- and it's twice as good as the one any other conference team can boast.

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For Oklahoma, the number represents its total haul of Big 12 championships -- exactly twice the number of Texas, which is second with four. While the Longhorns were longtime greats in the Southwest Conference, they have been a clear #2 to the Sooners since the formation of the Big 12. The Sooners also hold the best winning percentage in the league, coming out on top in 87 of its 106 games since 2000.

Granted, this is a new season, but it's clear from their opening game that OU is going to contend for the league title again, and will surely top the 90-win mark in the league before the season is out. In the national discussion, it sometimes seems as if Texas gets more attention and perhaps more respect than the Sooners, but clearly Oklahoma is still the best overall program in the league. Other teams are closing that gap, but the Crimson and Cream are still on top.


BEER OF THE WEEK

Time to head off the beaten path, although I've seen this popping up in more and more places. The Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat Ale, which I first got on tap at Recovery, has a lot of different flavors in its profile, and it goes great with any number of lighter foods. It's not heavy, doesn't weigh you down, and has a great crisp finish that leaves you wanting another.

The "312" in the name is the area code of downtown Chicago, which was the inspiration for this brew. Grab it on tap if you can -- in a bottle if you can't. The bumblebee-striped neck label grabs the eye, and the brew your tastebuds.


ONE MORE THING...

The rushing performance of Knight is of great concern to West Virginia, which isn't overloaded with speed at the linebacker positions. Upgrading that was a priority in last year's recruiting class, but so for only Brandon Golson has managed to crack the rotation and upgrade the quickness quotient. Keeping Knight contained will be a difficult task, and it was made even more so with the loss of Dozie Ezemma to a broken bone in the William & Mary game. Coupled with the season ending surgery on Shaw Petteway's shoulder, and WVU might be slower at linebacker than it was overall coming into the season.

Of course, speed isn't the only factor in keeping Knight bottled up. The defensive line must do its job and collapse the pocket, and the linebackers must be disciplined in executing their assignments. Blitzes must be run efficiently, and players that get the chance to take Knight down must do so on the first try. West Virginia's tackling was very good against William & Mary, and that trend must continue in this game.

Still, WVU must come up with a different linebacking rotation in this contest. Does it go with Tyler Anderson at the buck, who is strong and can take on blocks but isn't the fastest 'backer in the group? Does it stick with Golson, who has great speed but had problems with some assignments against the Tribe? Defensive coordinator Keith Patterson could also run a nickel package with greater frequency, and bring a safety into the game in place of one of the inside linebackers, aor he could go with the set that was most used against W&M, when safety K.J. Dillon entered the game at spur, and moved Isaiah Bruce back to his old spot inside. Each potential solution has its strengths and weaknesses, and it will be very interesting to see how West Virginia adjusts to meet Knights' threat.


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