West Virginia (5-3) at Oklahoma State (5-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, Nov. 10, 3:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Boone Pickens Stadium (60,218) -- Stillwater, Oklahoma. Television: ABC. Home Record: WVU 3-2, OSU 4-1. Away Record: WVU 1-2, OSU 1-2. Neutral Record: WVU 1-0, OSU 0-0. Conference Record: WVU 2-3, OSU 3-2. Series Record: West Virginia leads, 2-1.
GAME NOTES: Two of the nation's most potent offenses are sure to set off some fireworks in Stillwater on Saturday afternoon, as the Oklahoma State Cowboys play host to the West Virginia Mountaineers.
West Virginia started the season red hot, winning its first five games to climb to No. 5 in the AP Poll, but it proved with its performance over the last few weeks that its early success may have been fool's gold. The Mountaineers have lost three straight games, including at home last week in double-overtime to TCU, 39-38, to fall out of the Top-25. At 2-3 in the Big 12, their BCS hopes are all but dead, but with one more victory they will become bowl eligible.
Oklahoma State has the same 5-3 overall record as West Virginia, but it currently sits ahead of the Mountaineers in the conference standings thanks to a perfect 3-0 October where it defeated Kansas (20-14), Iowa State (31-10) and TCU (36-14). The Cowboys started off November with a brutally-tough matchup on the road against No. 2 Kansas State last week, losing 44-30. They have been stellar at home since 2008, going 27-6 at Boone Pickens Stadium, with wins in 10 of their last 11 there.
West Virginia has won two of the three matchups against Oklahoma State all- time, although the teams haven't met since the 1987 Sun Bowl.
The Mountaineers have one of the most explosive offenses in the nation, as they rank ninth in scoring with 40.8 ppg, although three of the teams ranked ahead of them belong to the high-flying Big 12 (including OSU). After putting up just 14 points in losses to Texas Tech and Kansas State, the offense returned to form last week with 38 points, albeit behind just 338 total yards.
After a red-hot start to the season, Geno Smith has slowed his pace in recent weeks. He tossed three touchdown passes against TCU, but over the past three weeks he has completed less than 59 percent of his passes and has thrown his only three interceptions of the season. Despite his recent struggles, Smith's year-to-date stats (.720 completion percentage, 2.677 yards, 29 TDs) still have in the thick of the Heisman race.
Smith's success under center has led to a pair of outstanding seasons from the Mountaineers' receivers. Fresh off an 11-catch, 101-yard game, Tavon Austin is second in the Big 12 in receiving yards (889) and second in the nation in receptions (85), while also hauling in 10 touchdowns. Stedman Bailey is hot on Austin's heels with 61 catches for 830 yards, and his 15 receiving TDs are tops in the country.
Only 42 percent of West Virginia's plays have been runs, so naturally the rushing attack plays second-fiddle to the aerial assault, but Andrew Buie has proven to be as stellar carrying the ball (593 yards, five TDs) as he is a receiver out of the backfield (24 receptions, 255 yards).
The downfall for the Mountaineers has been a defense that allows nearly as much as the offense creates (39.8 ppg, 484.4 ypg), and the unit hasn't allowed fewer than 39 points since a 31-21 win over Maryland back on Sept. 22.
Not only has Isaiah Bruce been the team's top tackler (75), but he has also accounted for three of its 13 takeaways with an interception and two fumble recoveries. Josh Francis is its best pass rusher with 14 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.
Oklahoma State's offense (42.5 ppg) has been a well-oiled machine, ranking second in the nation in yards per game with 575.8. Although the offense put up solid numbers on the road against second-ranked K-State (30 points, 504 yards), the performance marked its second-lowest output of the season.
With J.W. Walsh (.662 completion percentage, 1,467 yards, 10 TDs, three INTs) out for the season, the Cowboys turned to Wes Lunt to start last week's game, but he threw three interceptions before leaving the game with an injury. Third-string quarterback Clint Chelf came in to take the first meaningful snaps of his career and played well given the circumstances, completing 16- of-27 passes for 233 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Without Walsh's dual-threat abilities under center (254 rushing yards, three TDs), the rushing attack struggled against K-State with just 87 yards. Joseph Randle (934 yards, nine TDs) is typically one of the best running backs in the country, as he has rushed for at least 100 yards in six of eight games.
Sophomore receiver Josh Stewart (666 yards, three TDs) has emerged as the top receiving threat, as his 56 receptions are already the 14th-best single-season total in school history. Charlie Moore (28 receptions, 476 yards, four TDs) and Blake Jackson (24 receptions, 480 yards, TD) bring big-play ability to the outside.
Considering the degree of difficulty of its conference opponents, the Oklahoma State defense has played very well, allowing under 26 ppg. It had its hands full against a powerful Wildcats squad a week ago, but consider the turnover problems on offense and the fact that 14 of their 44 points came on defense or special teams, the unit performed admirably.
Despite missing a game, Alex Elkins is still the team's leading tackler with 43 stops. The Cowboys have not come up with many big plays on defense as they average less than two sacks per game and have logged just nine turnovers.
The difference between the West Virginia team from the beginning of the year to what it is now is night and day. Smith still has the ability to put up points, but the league has definitely figured out ways to slow him down. Regardless of its quarterback issues, Oklahoma State will surely have no problem scoring on the Mountaineers' porous defense. The Cowboys match up well with WVU in this contest, and the home field advantage is just the icing on the cake.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Oklahoma State 45, West Virginia 35
11/07 10:36:51 ET