In Their Head

By Adam Caparell - January 02, 2008


It's getting to be old hat to find the Sooners in a BCS games considering this will mark the sixth time Oklahoma finds itself in one of the season's premier bowl games over the past eight years. But it's safe to say Bob Stoops and his players haven't faced a team quite like West Virginia yet.

The Mountaineers may not be the nation's No. 1 rushing team, but they're arguably its most dynamic when it comes to running it. With Pat White and Steve Slaton running the ball, West Virginia can be tough to game plan against considering how effective they've shown to be utilizing the spread attack perfected by former coach Rich Rodriguez.

"We have got a few great kids out there that have the ability to make you miss and the speed to put it in the end zone on you. That's the biggest factor with ours," West Virginia defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel said.

But the biggest factors heading into tonight's Fiesta Bowl may have nothing to do with schemes or formations, the Mountaineers rushing game or even how their defense stacks up against the supremely balanced Sooners.

No, the biggest questions, factors or whatever you want to call them heading into the game has to be where the Mountaineers' heads are and just how motivated they are.

With Rodriguez up and leaving them seemingly overnight for the greener pastures of Ann Arbor a few weeks back, has West Virginia gotten over the sting of his loss, are they ready to play for interim coach Bill Stewart and are they psyched enough to be playing in a game that's not the BCS Championship?

They'll all be answered in the desert tonight against one of the best teams in the country. White, Slaton and company are going to have their hands full dealing with the powerful Sooners. Oklahoma's got an explosive offense, a speedy defense and are led by one of the best coaches in the country.

Good luck with that West Virgnia, and good luck with the Rodriguez hangover. The Mountaineers are assuring everyone the coaching situation is not a cause for concern, but it's impossible to think it won't have some effect.

"It truly has not (caused) any stress or distractions," Stewart said. "We keep hearing that from others (who) maybe want it that way. Our stress and attention has been on those great athletes at Oklahoma and that fine coaching staff under Bobby Stoops."

The Line: -7 Oklahoma
O/U: 63.5

If I Were A Betting Man: Oklahoma and the under. In a game that screams to take the over, I'm going with the under in this one because I think the Sooners defense is going to be too much for the Mountaineers to handle. They have the speed to matchup with the speed of West Virginia and the mismatches the Mountaineers take advantage of against lesser team won't be present tonight. Pat White's going to take a pounding. Not as badly as Colt Brennan did against Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, but White's going to be hit unlike any other game this season. Sooners have more overall team speed and they're going to run all over the Mountaineers defense. West Virginia does not have the personnel to matchup with Oklahoma. Get ready for another yawner.

Bowl Season: 9-18 ATS | 17-9-1 O/U. Nothing worse than a snake.

Posted by Adam Caparell at 05:53 PM on January 02, 2008
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