West Virginia will aim to do something it has not done since joining the Big 12 – beat Oklahoma – and do so without its starting quarterback.
Chris Chugunov leads the Mountaineers (7-4, 5-3 Big 12) into Norman to take on a fourth-ranked Sooners (10-1, 7-1) team that already knows it’s playing in the Big 12 title game next week. But that doesn’t mean Lincoln Riley’s club can let their foot off the gas. A home loss to an unranked WVU team could knock the Sooners out of the race for one of the four coveted spots in the College Football Playoffs.
For the third week in a row the Mountaineers have to game plan for two different quarterbacks, but they’re mostly planning to defend Heisman candidate Baker Mayfield.
Murray, then Mayfield
It’s not known how long he’ll be on the sideline, but Mayfield is not starting the game at quarterback. Instead, that will be Kyler Murray.
Murray gets the start due to Mayfield’s actions last week against Kansas, though he possesses a number of the same skill sets that Mayfield has. Murray is an athletic quarterback that can be successful through the air and on the ground. But make no bones about it, once Mayfield enters the game after his disciplinary time out, the offense is his.
With Mayfield controlling the offense, the Sooners lead the country in a multitude of stats including total offense, yards per play and plays of 20-plus yards. WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen himself highlighted that the Sooners average 8.3 yards per snap in his meeting with the media Tuesday.
“They’re really good, offensively – the most efficient team I’ve seen in a long time,” Holgorsen said Tuesday. “I’ve never seen anybody average 8.3 yards a play over the course of 11 games.”
Mayfield, OU’s numbers versus WVU
Mayfield has lit up the Big 12 during his three years as the starter for the Sooners. However, his numbers haven’t been fantastic against the Mountaineers.
In his two games against West Virginia, Mayfield has only completed 57.5 percent of his passes and is averaging just 244.5 passing yards per game. Both of those numbers are much lower than his totals against other conference foes.
A majority of his damage against the Mountaineers came in the 2015 meeting in Norman, when the Sooners won 44-24 early in the season. In last year’s 56-28 drubbing in Morgantown, the loaded Oklahoma backfield did a lot of the work, amassing over 300 yards on the ground.
A look at the Oklahoma defense
The Oklahoma defense hasn’t been great, but it’s been getting the job done.
The Sooners rank towards the middle of the Big 12 in a number of defensive categories, including scoring, total, rush and pass defense. They are, however, better than the Mountaineers, statistically, in all of those categories except for pass defense, though the difference is just 10 yards per game.
Schematically, the Sooners don’t appear to be too different from what West Virginia faced last week in Texas, according to Holgorsen. One area that Mike Stoops’ defense has not been excelling at all in is red zone defense. The Sooners are eight in the Big 12 and ranked 92nd nationally in stopping opponents once they get inside the 20-yard line.
Senior defensive end/linebacker Ogbonnia Okronkwo leads the Big 12 and is tied for 13th in the nation with eight sacks, and is second in the conference with three forced fumbles. He also has tallied 17 tackles for loss on the year and has registered at least one stop behind the line of scrimmage in every game.