(22) West Virginia (5-2) at Oklahoma State (5-2) (ET)
GAME NOTES: A pair of Big 12 Conference teams riding different emotional waves square off on Saturday afternoon, as the 22nd-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers come calling on the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
West Virginia is fresh off its biggest win of the season, as coach Dana Holgorsen's squad took down the high-octane Baylor Bears last weekend in Morgantown, 41-27. It was the third straight win for the Mountaineers, who are making their first appearance of the season in the AP Top-25 this week. Following this contest, WVU also has tough tests against TCU, Texas, Kansas State and Iowa State on the docket.
At the other end of the spectrum, Oklahoma State was embarrassed last week at TCU, losing to the powerful Horned Frogs in a 42-9 final. The Cowboys got all their scoring thanks to three Ben Grogan field goals, failing to score a touchdown for the first time since a 27-0 loss to Oklahoma in the 2009 regular-season finale. The loss also put an end to the Cowboys' five-game win streak, and it was also their most lopsided setback since losing to Texas Tech, 56-20, back in 2008.
West Virginia leads the all-time series with Oklahoma State, 3-2, and the teams are 1-1 since the Mountaineers joined the Big 12. WVU came out on top in last year's clash at home, 30-21.
Clint Trickett has been a man possessed for West Virginia this season, as the former Florida State Seminole leads the Big 12 in passing with 2,525 yards. He is completing a league-best 68.2 percent of his throws, and has 15 TDs against only five INTs. Last week against Baylor, the senior signal caller hit the mark on 25-of-35 pass attempts for 322 yards and three scores, while his counterpart, BU's Bryce Petty, went just 16-of-36 for 223 yards and two TDs. Kevin White, who leads the league with 9.86 receptions per contest, caught eight balls for 132 yards and two scores for the Mountaineers, who also got at least 60 yards rushing from both Wendell Smallwood and Dreamius Smith, the latter also scoring once.
The WVU defense stood tall in the face of serious adversity last week, as it faced a Baylor offense that is among the best in the nation. The Bears generated just 318 yards on 79 plays (4.0 ypp), as the Mountaineers rallied around each other in the wake of both starting cornerbacks (Daryl Worley, Terrell Chestnut) being out of action due to injury. Also aiding in the effort was four sacks, three being credited to Shaq Riddick, and the fact that Baylor was penalized a Big 12-record 18 times for a loss of 215 yards. WVU, which was flagged 14 times for a loss of 138 yards, held the Bears to only 95 net rushing yards.
West Virginia ranks first in the Big 12 in passing offense (361.7 ypg), second in total offense (538.4 ypg), and fifth in scoring offense (37.3 ppg). On the other side of the ball, the Mountaineers are tied for sixth in scoring defense (27.1 ppg), while checking in third against the pass (215.0 ypg). Nick Kwiatkoski paces the defense with 55 tackles, which includes nine TFL, while Riddick leads the way with five sacks. WVU is among the worst teams in the country when it comes to forcing turnovers, having done so only four times (all interceptions).
Rightfully so, Holgorsen praised his team for the outstanding effort it put forth against a formidable Baylor squad.
"I'm proud of our mentality. Our guys were ready to play. I can't say enough about how they went out there and played hard. We've been in the situation with some pretty good teams and haven't been able to finish."
Oklahoma State failed to establish any kind of offensive rhythm in last week's blowout loss at TCU, tallying a mere 258 yards compared to a whopping 676 for the Horned Frogs. Daxx Garman completed only 10-of-25 passes for 132 yards, and he threw two INTs while being sacked twice. Desmond Roland accounted for 84 yards on 23 carries, but the Pokes were stymied at nearly every turn.
Coach Mike Gundy's defense was battered and bruised in yielding 261 yards on the ground and 415 through the air. Ryan Simmons led the Pokes with 11 tackles, nine of which were solo efforts, while Emmanuel Ogbah took down the opposing quarterback behind the line twice to maintain his place atop the Big 12 sacks list (7.0).
Last week's outing certainly skewed the team's season averages a bit, with the Cowboys now scoring 33.1 ppg while permitting 27.1 ppg. As evidenced against the Frogs, the squad has had difficulty all season long defending the pass, as it ranks last in the league with 288.4 ypg and 13 TDs allowed.
Garman is hitting the mark on only 55.4 percent of his pass attempts for just shy of 250 ypg with 10 TDs and seven INTs. David Glidden and Brandon Sheperd are both over 300 yards receiving, but they only have a combined three TDs. Roland is running for 79.2 ypg, and he has found the end zone seven times, the team tallying a dozen rushing scores on the year.
With his troops still reeling a bit, Gundy knows they need to put the TCU game behind them as they prepare for another tough test this week.
"We're facing another team that's playing well right now. They have a quarterback who has matured and is playing with confidence. He's considerably better than what he was eight or 10 games ago in my opinion. They've got a great receiver who is going to play the game for a long time in my opinion. Defense is playing with an attitude and a lot of confidence. We'll have our hands full."
The Mountaineers are indeed a confident bunch, but winning in the Big 12 on the road is never easy. Expect the Cowboys to play better this week, and if they get a solid outing from Garman and a stronger defensive effort the hometown fans could be smiling when the final second ticks off the clock.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Oklahoma State 38, West Virginia 31