West Virginia Mountaineers at Oklahoma Sooners Expert Picks with Odds and Predictions
West Virginia Mountaineers at Oklahoma Sooners, Saturday Nov. 25, 3:45 p.m. ET
The biggest storyline in this game, and the only real reason to pay attention to it because it isn't too likely to be a thriller on the field, is the playoff implications. Oklahoma is one of four teams, along with Alabama, Clemson and Miami, that entirely control their destiny - if they win out they will be in the playoff regardless of what happens everywhere else. The road is a little tougher for a Big 12 team like Oklahoma than it has been before this year because of the new Big 12 title game. Oklahoma is already in that game and will likely play a rematch with TCU. But that game will mean a whole lot less if the Sooners don't take care of business in this one.
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West Virginia at Oklahoma Betting Storylines
Oklahoma is obviously the key here, but let's start with West Virginia. Their QB, Will Grier, formerly with Florida, has actually had a solid year. But he won't be in this one. If you are at all squeamish don't search for a picture or video of Grier's finger injury in his last outing. It was hideous and unquestionably ended his season. Chris Chugunov will be getting the start in place of Grier. He hasn't played at all since a mop-up effort in September, and he has had limited career action, so he's obviously not an ideal starter - especially against an offense as explosive as Oklahoma's. On the plus side, Oklahoma views defense as little more than an afterthought, so Chugunov could definitely have a tougher assignment - though he will have to score a pile of points to have any shot at the very unlikely upset.
Chugunov isn't the only backup QB who will be starting this game. Likely Heisman winner Baker Mayfield has been benched to start this game because of a gesture he made during the last game against Kansas. It's an overblown situation, and you can be sure he'll be back by the second possession or by the second quarter at the very latest. Even if he isn't going, though, Oklahoma has a massive advantage at quarterback. Backup Kyler Murray has starting experience at Texas A&M, and he is well suited for what is a very quarterback-friendly offense. Oklahoma will be just fine in this one regardless.
Lincoln Riley is doing an incredible job coaching Oklahoma. He took over this summer on very short notice when Bob Stoops shockingly retired, and he inherited a major program at a much younger age, and with much less experience, than most people get for that opportunity. But aside from that one misstep against Iowa State, the team has looked great and played a ferocious style. Mayfield has had to deal with getting less time with Riley, who was offensive coordinator and quarterback coach last year. Obviously it hasn't hurt him. Riley is only 34, so what he is doing is remarkable. Dana Holgorsen, on the other hand, is a guy who really badly needs to be replaced. His progress is stalled at West Virginia, the team has never been as good as they should be, and I just don't trust him. You wouldn't guess that the first-year coach would give his team a big edge, but he most certainly does here.
West Virginia at Oklahoma Odds and Betting Trends
The oddsmakers don't think that this one will be close. The game opened with Oklahoma favored by 22.5 points, and that has since crept up to 23 - with perhaps more climbing to come. A slight majority of action is on Oklahoma despite the huge number. The total opened at 68.5 and has fallen slightly to 67.5.
The Mountaineers are 3-1-1 ATS in their last five against teams with winning records but just 1-3-1 ATS in their last five conference games, and have the same dismal mark in their last five overall. The Sooners are 9-1 ATS in their last 10 at home and 10-1 ATS in their last 11 against teams with winning records.
West Virginia at Oklahoma Predictions and Picks
This is a whole lot of points to give up. I just don't see any way around it, though. Oklahoma has a much better offense, Mayfield will be in action soon enough while West Virginia is stuck with a backup all game, and Oklahoma has much more to play for. The Sooners should jump out of the gate in this one, and they won't look back. It remains to be seen if they will keep their foot on the gas long enough to come out on top by enough to cover the spread, but I certainly can't justify betting that the Mountaineers can keep it close enough. Oklahoma against the spread is the pick.
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