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Previewing: Oklahoma State-West Virginia



On Saturday, the Oklahoma State Cowboys will undoubtedly face their biggest test of the season as they travel to Morgantown to take on the West Virginia Mountaineers under the lights.

The Cowboys are coming off a narrow 36-34 win last weekend against Kansas State, while OU waxed the Mountaineers, 44-24.

West Virginia played a weak non-conference schedule, beating Georgia Southern and Liberty handily and blowing out its only real opponent, Maryland 45-6. (Credit Daxx Garman with a touchdown pass for the Terrapins in that bloodbath.)

Even before All-Big 12 safety Karl Joseph was lost for the year with a knee injury, Sooner-quarterback Baker Mayfield carved the Mountaineer’s secondary – tossing 320 yards and three touchdowns.

To that point in the season the Mountaineers hadn’t been tested, and well, they the failed first one miserably.

Quarterback Skyler Howard entered the game with 9 touchdowns and one interception in comfortable games at home against three teams that won’t go to bowl games. However, his first game on the road resulted in three interceptions thrown and only 173 yards.

However, West Virginia was able to run the ball. Running back Wendell Smallwood had 111 yards on 22 carries. Smallwood is averaging about 110 yards per game and scored four touchdowns in the non-conference schedule, but had none against OU.

Even though West Virginia doesn’t have a Kevin White-level receiver this year (or any first-round talent on offense), the unit is averaging 38.5 points per game. That number isn’t a good representation of the offense, given the weak scheduling.

Dana Holgorsen’s gang is difficult to evaluate. I don’t think anyone expected them to go into Norman and get a win, but I thought they would look better in a loss than they did. Ultimately, the Mountaineers are unproven, having only played one game in conference.

This game comes at a major crossroad for the Cowboys. A loss drops the record to 5-1 and raises major questions about the validity of the first five wins, as well as the outlook on the season.

On the other hand, a win extends the Mason Rudolph-era winning streak (post-Baylor loss) to eight games.

As Kyle has mentioned previously, this team has built up a great deal of momentum and I don’t think a bad team starts 6-0. Especially with three conferences wins in a row, two of which were on the road.

To get the win, the OSU defense must continue to be incredible up front. Ogbah and Co. will need to be Skyler Howard’s worst nightmare. If they can be disruptive enough to force Howard out of the pocket, he will make mistakes that will lead to turnovers. His legs shouldn’t be a major threat, but he did have 68 yards in a game earlier this year.

On the second-level, not having Ryan Simmons at linebacker will hurt, but I don’t think Smallwood will have more than 100 yards in the game given the stoutness of Glenn Spencer’s guys.

Mason Rudolph regained the favor he had had lost with some OSU fans in the Texas win after his incredible performance last weekend. It’s amazing how public opinion of Rudolph changed after he threw for 437 and three touchdowns in a win.

Given the forever-iffy status of the running game under Mike & Mike, watching Rudolph spread the ball around like he was playing for Mike Leach at Texas Tech was enjoyable. Abandoning the running game might not be the smartest move in the long-term, but if Rudolph can win games with his arm, I say let him.

Considering West Virginia is without its best piece in the secondary, I think Rudolph needs to throw close to 50 passes again if the Cowboys want to get a win in Morgantown – something they haven’t done since the Mountaineers joined the conference.

Bowl-eligibility is on the horizon, but it will take a mistake-free game, something the Cowboys have yet to show this season. A loss is expected from most, but a win would definitely turn a lot of heads and raise expectations as well.

Prediction: 34-31 Oklahoma State

Headline: Grogan Does It Again

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