No. 4 Oklahoma (3-0) meets West Virginia (2-1) for the first time since 2019 on Saturday.
The Sooners are 17-point favorites in their Big 12 opener and will look to carry their defensive performance in last weekend’s win over Nebraska into Saturday’s bout against the Mountaineers. Here are the game predictions from The Daily’s sports desk:
Mason Young, sports editor: Sooners 27, Mountaineers 20
Plenty has changed since Oklahoma last faced West Virginia in 2019. At that time, OU head coach Lincoln Riley had seemingly turned Alabama transfer quarterback Jalen Hurts into a better-than-ever passer as he bombarded the Mountaineers for 316 yards and three touchdowns.
Now, the offensive approach is different, as Riley has reined in Hurts’ former understudy Spencer Rattler amid his second season as OU’s starter. Rattler gets his first crack at the Mountaineers after the matchup was canceled last year due to COVID-19. However, he has completed only 10 passes over 20 yards so far this season after making 47 such throws last fall.
Riley has taught Rattler to take what the defense gives him, which is why I believe this game will be much closer this time than two years ago, when the Sooners thrashed WVU 52-14. Rattler is also taking what his own defense gives him, which is seven turnovers through its first three games. I predict Speed D recovers a fumble and snags an interception against the Mountaineers on Saturday.
Chandler Engelbrecht, assistant sports editor: Sooners 37, Mountaineers 17
Since Riley took over the Sooners’ offense in 2015, Oklahoma has scored 44 or more points in each of its last five matchups against West Virginia. The last four times, OU has put up more than 50 points against WVU. I don’t see Rattler needing to continue the Sooners’ scoring streak to get a win in his first matchup with the Mountaineers.
After its 23-point performance last weekend, Oklahoma scoring over 50 points Saturday would likely silence critics who say this OU offense isn’t as explosive as the ones before it, but I think the unit needs a little more time before it puts up numbers like that on a consistent basis. Plus, West Virginia just defeated then-No. 15 Virginia Tech 27-21 and hasn’t allowed more than 30 points in its three games this season.
I think Riley and company will adopt for this game the same strategy they used to defeat Nebraska — eating up as much clock as possible while keeping the Sooners’ defense off the field. Still, I’d look for OU to get more possessions than it did against the Cornhuskers, setting up this game to be a tad more exciting than the 50th anniversary of the Game of the Century. I predict OU’s defense gives WVU a lot of trouble as the Sooners start off Big 12 play with a win.
Austin Curtright, assistant sports editor: Sooners 31, Mountaineers 21
West Virginia has yet to defeat OU since joining the Big 12 and I don’t think that changes now. Yes, the Sooners have two single-digit victories against Tulane and Nebraska this season, and, despite knowing their performances could be better, Riley and Co. are 3-0 and that’s what matters to them.
This isn’t the typical Riley offense that Oklahoma fans have seen light up scoreboards in the past. Rattler and the unit, as seen in Saturday’s game against Nebraska, took long drives that shed time off the clock with Rattler hardly taking deep shots.
Nonetheless, I think that partially continues into Saturday’s game against the Mountaineers. I think Rattler and the offense control the pace with long drives and OU’s defense makes more stops than it doesn’t. But with long drives comes less points, making this game closer than most think. However, the Sooners will control this game from the jump and never look back. OU has found more ways to win than just hope it outscores its opponent.