Oklahoma football: What fans need to know about OU vs. West Virginia

Sep 25, 2021; Norman, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma Sooners running back Eric Gray (0) has his facemask grabbed by West Virginia Mountaineers defensive lineman Akheem Mesidor (90) during the second half at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 25, 2021; Norman, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma Sooners running back Eric Gray (0) has his facemask grabbed by West Virginia Mountaineers defensive lineman Akheem Mesidor (90) during the second half at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

Oklahoma football rarely suffers two consecutive losses, let alone three. That’s the situation Oklahoma football Team 129 finds itself in as it gets ready to play West Virginia on Saturday at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.

The Sooners (7-2, 4-2) are coming off back-to-back conference losses (by a total of eight points) to Kansas and Oklahoma State, both on the road. Both of those teams are ranked in the week two College Football Playoff rankings and ahead of Oklahoma, which dropped eight spots this week to No. 17.

Meanwhile, West Virginia is riding the momentum of two consecutive wins, including arguably its best performance of the season: a 37-7 home victory over BYU.

My how things can change quickly in college football, especially at the point we are now in the 2023 season. Two weeks ago, Oklahoma was undefeated, riding the wave of seven straight wins and leading the Big 12 Conference. Flash forward to the present: The Sooners are tied with four other conference teams for third place, all with 4-2 league records. West Virginia is one of those four teams.

FOX. 815. 877. Saturday, Nov. 11. No. 17, 7-2, 4-2. Sooners -12.5. 6 p.m. CT. 6-3, 4-2

Oklahoma is 11-3 all-time against West Virginia and 9-1 in the Big 12 era, which for the Mountaineers began in 2012. Moreover, the Sooners are 7-1 all-time against West Virginia when the game is played in Norman.

The one OU loss to West Virginia as members of the Big 12 came last season with the Mountaineers winning 23-20 in Morgantown. In the course of that game, the Sooners got their first look at current starting quarterback Garrett Greene. The junior came off the bench and ran for 119 yards and two touchdowns and also threw a touchdown pass in leading the home team to its first Big 12 win over Oklahoma.

The game on Saturday will be OU’s third night game of the season. The Sooners won the previous two night games, both in Norman, 28-11 over SMU and 52-20 against Iowa State.

“Our fans do a great job showing up all the time,” said head coach Brent Venables, “but for whatever reason, night games draw a few more people.”

The game will be televised by FOX with Jeff Levering and former Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich calling the game, Kickoff at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium is set for 6 p.m.

What to know about West Virginia

On Saturday, the No. 17 Sooners will have faced four consecutive teams –UCF, Kansas, Oklahoma State and this week West Virginia — with rushing offenses that rank among the top-35 best in the nation. Oklahoma is 1-2 so far in those matchups, but West Virginia comes in with the seventh-best running game among the 131 FBS teams, averaging 218 yards per game.

Similar to what OU faced against Kansas, the Mountaineers have two running backs — sophomore CJ Donaldson Jr and freshman Jaheim White — who between them have run for 1,083 yards and 11 touchdowns. And then you add the triple threat in QB Garrett Greene, who has 427 rushing yards and eight touchdowns of his own this season, and you’ve got a major defensive challenge.

West Virginia can also throw the ball, but it is the run game that sets up the passing offense. In contrast to OU’s Big 12-leading pass offense, however, the Mountaineers sit dead last in the conference in pass offense, averaging just over 200 yards per game.

Defensively, the Mountaineers allow an average of 24.3 points a game and rank fourth in the Big 12, giving up an average of 367 yards per game. What the Sooners need to be concerned about is that the West Virginia defense is statistically better than both Kansas and Oklahoma State.

What to know about Oklahoma

Despite its struggles in the past two games, Oklahoma was in a position late to win both games. Not to take anything away from either Kansas or Oklahoma State, the Sooners beat themselves in both games, committing three turnovers in both games and with costly, undisciplined penalties.

Despite the six turnovers in the past two games, Oklahoma still ranks No. 10 in the country in turnover margin (+8).

Offensively, the Sooners have the best quarterback in the conference in Dillon Gabriel along with an offense that leads the Big 12 and ranks in the top-10 nationally in both scoring and total offense. And the sample size on defense is more than sufficient to validate OU’s improvement defensively, especially when junior LB Danny Stutsman is on the field.

This is still a very good Oklahoma team with plenty of talent on both sides of the ball and good depth in most every position group. That, in itself, is a major improvement over last season.

The Sooners will wear their “Unity” uniforms, an anthracite color design with crimson highlighting. The alternate uniform was first introduced a year ago in honor of Prentice Gautt, the first African American scholarship athlete to play football at OU. This will be the first time this season OU has deviated from its traditional crimson and cream uniforms. Oklahoma debuted the “Unity” uniforms in a home game against Kansas last season won by the Sooners 52-42.

Key matchup

A prime reason why West Virginia is one of the best running teams in the country is the elite nature of the Mountaineers offensive line. In addition to leading the way for 218 rushing yards per game, the West Virginia O-line has allowed the second fewest sacks (9) in the Big 12 this season. The offensive line “is probably the strength of their team,” Brent Venables said this week. How well the Oklahoma defensive front matches up with the challenge posed by the massive West Virginia O-line and the ability of the Sooner defenders to win the line of scrimmage will likely determine the outcome of the game.

Striking Sooner stats

  • Oklahoma’s 47 total touchdowns this season lead the Big 12 and are three more than the next closest team (Kansas State with 44).
  • The Sooners’ 19 takeaways are the team’s most through nine games since the 2011 season (Brent Venables’ final season as OU defensive coordinator before moving on to Clemson).


The Sooners are back home at the Palace on the Prairie for just the second time in over a month. It’s also been two weeks since the last Oklahoma win. When you factor that the Sooners have lost just 13 times in 151 games at home since the start of the 1999 season and that West Virginia has won just once at Owen Field in eight visits, the setting appears perfect for an OU statement win. Sooners win big: Oklahoma 48, West Virginia 24.