Oklahoma Sooners at West Virginia Mountaineers, Saturday November 19, 8 p.m. ET
The Sooners threw away their season - at least from a national title perspective - almost before it started. Losing to Houston was a big blow, and losing to Ohio State was fatal. It all could have been an excuse to pout and ruin the rest of their season. Instead, they renewed their focus and have been dominant through Big 12 play. They have won all seven conference games and were only really tested a couple of times. It has been exactly what was expected of them entering the season - it just came three games too late.
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Thanks to their strong play they now control their own destiny. They have a very tough remaining schedule - this game followed by a home game against Oklahoma State to finish the season after a bye week. If they win both games then they win the conference. A loss, though, means that they need some help to take the title.
West Virginia can win the title, too, but their path is steeper. They have one conference loss already, and that was to Oklahoma State. That means that they not only need to win this game but also need to win out and need Oklahoma State to lose a second game to win. So, for both teams it's a must-win game, but only Oklahoma controls what happens to them.
Oklahoma at West Virginia Betting Storylines
The story for Oklahoma is all about the offense. They have a three-headed beast at the helm - QB Baker Mayfield, RB Joe Mixon, and WR Dede Westbrook - that is the best trio in college football right now. Mayfield is torching opposing defenses, and he has the best QB rating in the country. His completion percentage is so impressive that he is on track to beat Russell Wilson's efficiency record set in his grad year at Wisconsin. Mixon is averaging 194 all-purpose yards per game, which is tops in the country. On the ground he has posted seven yards per carry. Westbrook was hurt in the preseason and wasn't at full strength for those two big losses early on, but has been fine in conference play and has just destroyed opponents. He has 15 touchdowns and just short of 1,500 receiving yards. These three together are nearly impossible for teams to contain - they have averaged 48 points per game in conference play and have at least 34 in every outing.
That sets up a fascinating showdown. West Virginia has allowed just 121 points in their six conference games. In the explosive Big 12 conference, their 20 points allowed per game is by far the best. It's strength against strength, West Virginia isn't perfect, though. The one conference game in which their defense was exploited was against Oklahoma State. On that day Mason Rudolph had a strong passing day, and they scored 37 points. The Cowboys have the second-best offense in the Big 12 - behind only Oklahoma. Despite the strength of the West Virginia defense, then, we don't have to assume that Oklahoma is going to struggle to score.
If Oklahoma is likely to be able to score then West Virginia needs to be able to score as well to keep up. Oklahoma's defense isn't embarrassing, but nor is it their strength. West Virginia's offense is solid, too, but far from great - their 32 points per game is better than just three teams in the Big 12, and two of those three are really awful. TCU, Texas and Texas Tech have all had huge offensive days in their losses to Oklahoma, though, so the Sooners really aren't scared of a shootout. Despite West Virginia's defensive strength, then, we should expect to see some fireworks here.
Oklahoma at West Virginia Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Oklahoma favored by the key number of three. That has since widely dropped to 2.5. A decent majority of bets have come in on Oklahoma, so the line movement is a good indication that sharp money has come in on West Virginia. The total sits at 66.5.
The Sooners are 10-4 ATS in their last 14 conference games and 5-2 ATS in their last seven November games. They are 10-4 ATS in their last 14 road games against teams with winning home records but just 1-4 ATS in their last five road games overall. The Mountaineers are 4-1 ATS in their last five November games but just 4-11 ATS in their last 11 against teams with winning records, and they are 6-20 ATS in their last 26 at home against teams with winning road records.
Oklahoma at West Virginia Predictions and Picks
This line is a bit of a gift - it is well worth jumping on at 2.5, and it would be attractive a couple of points higher as well. Oklahoma's offense is too deep and confident right now. West Virginia was exposed defensively by Oklahoma State, and this is a much, much bigger test. The location will be tough, but Oklahoma is clearly hungry to win the conference to salvage the season, and they will be looking to set the tone in this one early. It should be a fairly high-scoring affair, and Oklahoma has the clear edge. Take the Sooners.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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