Texas A&M plays SEC power broker
Aggies make themselves feel right at home in first season
There’s a reason you don’t invite complete strangers into your home.
They might not respect your belongings. They might not conform to the rules of your house. They might even take what they see fit.
This year, the SEC welcomed Texas A&M – a stranger from a strange, Tex-Mex-laden land – into its regal estate. The idea was that the conference would grow, that A&M, long dormant in the Big 12, would take a few years – maybe more – to acclimate to that famed “SEC speed” and to avoid being swallowed whole by defenses every Saturday. Welcome in, fellas, now please enjoy your beverage at the small side table in the corner; maybe you can chat with Missouri.
That was how most fans saw the plan, anyway.
Not part of the plan? Texas A&M and its redshirt-freshman quarterback marching into Tuscaloosa and knocking off the undefeated Crimson Tide 29-24.
Not part of the plan? The stranger walking up to the home’s most invaluable piece of art and setting it aflame.
Not part of the plan? The newest addition to the conference single-handedly, if not assuring, then at least potentially bringing the SEC’s streak of six consecutive national championships to an unexpected, jarring conclusion.
There’s irony here, dripping thick and slow like southern molasses. For the SEC’s dominance over the national landscape – or, at least, the season’s final game – to come to an end, the seeds for destruction needed to be planted from the inside. Rather than succumbing to an assault from outside forces, the streak could only implode. And that the conference’s newest team, the stranger invited in, had its hands on the plunger, is all the more compelling and – in the silly context of sport – tragic.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying the mighty SEC itself is imploding. That’s not going to happen anytime soon. It’s still the nation’s best conference – home to five of the top nine teams in the most recent BCS rankings. But, given that Kansas State, Oregon and Notre Dame have combined for 30 wins and zero losses so far, it seems feasible, if not certain, that a one-loss SEC team won’t charm its way into the BCS title game. It seems feasible, if not certain, that a seventh crystal football won’t find itself basking in the Southern sun.
That streak had become a unifying force, a rallying cry, among sports fanatics in the region for whom a sense of disrespect from other corners of the country is inborn. Though the conference is home to some of the most physical, bitter rivalries in the nation, fans in Athens and Tuscaloosa and Baton Rouge and Gainesville and Knoxville and other towns of their ilk would unite under a common flag for three hours every January. They’d cast the rivalries – the hatred – aside and stand behind their conference champion.
This year, Alabama – through preseason respect and dominant wins – seemed to be the team that would unite the conference come January (well, except for Auburn, where fans cheered when the score of the A&M victory flashed at Jordan-Hare). Now, thanks to A&M and Manziel – the most electric freshman we’ve seen since Adrian Peterson? Michael Vick? Herschel Walker? – there may be no team to stand behind this winter.
After being hardened by home losses to the stout defenses from Florida and LSU, Manziel managed to eviscerate the best defense of them all. On Saturday, the freshman completed 24 of 31 attempts for 253 yards and two scores. And he ran for 92 of the most hard-earned, elusive, slippery yards I’ve seen in quite some time. In the fourth quarter, he was as locked in as the missile guidance system on an F-22, dropping deep balls into Ryan Swope’s arms that fell into tiny gaps between those elite Bama defenders, who weren’t fooled, simply beaten. When’s the last time you heard that?
When Manziel knelt and the game’s final seconds ticked off the clock, the SEC’s coveted streak, it’s most prized possession, may have died right there in the grass under his knee. At that moment, Oregon players – captured on video watching the game’s climax – burst into unbridled celebration. There were likely similar scenes in living rooms and locker rooms across the nation – just not down south.
This isn’t definite. K-State or Oregon or Notre Dame could fall – two of them would likely have to – and Alabama, or even Georgia, could sneak back into the title game and fight to preserve the conference’s streak. But, for now, it seems like the new houseguest has shattered the crystal football.
Given what Manziel and A&M did on Saturday, they’ll no longer be regarded as a stranger in the SEC’s house. Under the Tuscaloosa evening sky, they instantaneously earned the respect of an entire conference, even if they desecrated something sacred. But, fear not, SEC fans, the same stranger who may have ruined that streak, that invaluable piece of art, looks to be in the early stages of painting a new masterpiece – one that the conference may soon be able to proudly hang on its wall.
A shout-out to the nerds out there (and the lady, who is a big fan of Hugh Jackman): Collin Klein must be made of adamantium, the indestructible metal that lines Wolverine’s skeleton and is responsible for Mr. Jackman’s striking bone structure. After getting knocked out of the game early in the second half against Oklahoma State the week before, Klein, despite worries to the contrary, was back under center against TCU on Saturday night. And, for Klein, getting back on the field doesn’t entail handing the ball off, tossing it downfield and doing everything possible to avoid contact. No, he seems to seek out players wearing the opposing jersey and decide that the most logical path to the next yard or the first down or the touchdown is directly through the numbers on their chest. Klein, though seemingly indestructible, was less than his usual superhuman self, amassing “only” 145 yards through the air, 50 on the ground and (gasp!) tossing an interception. But a subpar day for the Heisman frontrunner is a terrific day for most. Plus, for the humble Klein, it seems the only stat that matters is the W. That’s precisely what he got, thanks to a strong effort from his defense, which shut out the Horned Frogs until seven minute remained in the fourth quarter in the Wildcats’ 23-10 win.
Stanford emerged victorious in the Great Pacific Northwest Battle of Replacement Quarterbacks. Cardinal freshman Kevin Hogan was able to outduel Oregon State junior Cody Vaz, tossing a 13-yard touchdown to Zach Ertz with five minutes remaining that put his team up for good. Vaz played a solid game until he fumbled on his own 29, which set up Hogan’s short game-winning drive.
|THE BACKUP GAME|
Hogan tossed a pair of picks against Oregon State’s opportunistic defense – they’re now 23rd nationally in turnovers forced. Unfortunately, Vaz and his dangerous weapons on the outside punched the gift horse squarely in the jaw, and turned four Cardinal turnovers into a mere three points. And things get worse for the Beavers, whose 6-0 start has been marred by a pair of losses in their last three games: Vaz came out with an ankle injury on Oregon State’s last drive. The man he replaced, Sean Mannion, had to come in on fourth down to keep the game alive, but his lone pass of the game fell incomplete. With the victory, Stanford may be in line for a Rose Bowl trip, and, if they manage to topple Oregon, a Pac-12 title. Andrew who?
Just like I’ve been quick to point out when I’ve missed the mark in my preview columns, I’ll be even faster to point out when I hit the bull’s eye. Let’s go back in time: “Nebraska has been pulling out games late, but can it keep living so dangerously? Because the game is in Lincoln, I like the Huskers, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Penn State might give them another scare.” Yep, that’s the sound of me vigorously patting myself on the back. That sneaking suspicion became a reality for the Huskers when Penn State kicker Sam Ficken’s 38-yard field goal sailed through the uprights at the end of the half, giving Penn State an unexpected 20-6 lead and putting a lump in the throats of Husker fans who thought a Big Ten title was a formality by this point. Nebraska stormed back to tie it, but Ficken connected again in the third quarter to put the Nittany Lions up by three. But, like it has so many times this year, Nebraska saved its best for the final quarter, scoring 12 unanswered points. The game’s pivotal moment came in the fourth when Penn State was about to retake the lead as tight end Matt Lehman dove for the end zone, but the ball popped free. Upon further review, the pigskin didn’t breach the invisible plane and his fumble gave the Huskers the ball at the 20 and all but assured their fifth conference win.
Hold on, let me call Denny Green. (Yes, I have his number – we met at a Prince concert when he was coaching in Minnesota.) “Denny, what do you think about Mississippi State this year?” “Well, Brian, they are who we thought they were!” If you didn’t see that coming from several nautical miles away, then you clearly haven’t watched enough SportsCenter countdowns of “Top-10 coaching tirades”, which they trot out anytime another coach dives headfirst off of deep end. But, it’s true, after an undefeated start, the Bulldogs have morphed back into who we thought they were – a quality team that can’t quite hang with the big boys in their division. In the last three weeks, the Bulldogs have fallen to division-mates Alabama, Texas A&M and LSU by a combined 113-37 score. Though LSU won by 20 on Saturday, it didn’t quite feel like a blowout. Mississippi State hung tough, keeping the contest within a score for most of the third quarter. LSU’s Craig Loston made the game’s most exciting play in the game’s final moments when, already in full sprint after lurking in the back of the end zone, he picked off a Tyler Russell pass at the goal line and took it 100 yards in the other direction. Kudos to LSU for rebounding from the physically and emotionally taxing loss to Alabama the week before.
Yep, that’s the sound of more back patting you hear emanating through your computer speakers. After Geno Smith tossed 27 touchdowns against Baylor (or was it eight?) I expressed my worries via this column that his Heisman chances would be deflated by his defense’s inability to, well, defend.
This week, Smith put up 364 more yards, a pair of scores and didn’t throw a pick in 54 attempts. The Mountineers lost by 21, extending their losing streak to four games after soaring to a 5-0 start. Smith’s 337.6 yards-per-game (third-best in the nation), 31 touchdowns (fourth) and only three interceptions have been quietly swept under the rug. But the loss wasn’t just isn’t about Smith and the Mountaineers – Oklahoma State has won two of their last three since replacement starter J.W. Walsh was knocked out for the season with a knee injury against Iowa State. Clint Chelf, third on the Cowboys’ depth chart, has been forced into action thanks to Walsh’s injury and continued health issues for opening-week starter Wes Lunt. Chelf held his own against Kansas State and threw for 292 yards and four scores in the win against the Mountaineers this past weekend. No team in the nation has weathered injuries under center better than the Cowboys, who have turned a rebuilding year into one where they may amass eight or nine wins.
OK, this is the last one, I promise. Next week, I’ll go back to, “Aw shucks, this game really made me look like George Will picking the election.” But this week, like Dy-lan on Chappelle’s Show, I’m spitting hot fire. If you’re not intimately familiar with every episode of Chappelle’s show, take two days off of work and immerse yourself in two-and-a-half seasons of pure splendor. (You’re allowed to fast forward through the musical guests.)
In last week’s preview column, I told you to put the golf clubs away, sit down and watch the Northwestern-Michigan game, even though Michigan is about 1,200 games over .500 in the lifetime series between the two teams. (Yes, they’ve been playing since 800 A.D.; these schools understand tradition.) If you did hit the links one final time this year before the weather turned evil, you missed one of the better games between the two squads in recent memory. Denard Robinson’s absence certainly helped the Wildcats push it to overtime. Backup Devin Gardner had 47 rush yards to accompany his 286 through the air, but wasn’t capable of breaking off any Robinson-esque runs that might’ve put the game away earlier. Instead, the game featured five lead changes before it went to overtime. In the extra period, Gardner plunged in from a yard out and the Michigan D held firm on the Wildcats’ ensuing possession. With three conference losses, Northwestern’s conference title hopes seem to have been snuffed out, but it’s still been one of the best seasons fans in Evanston have been privy to in quite a while.
Notre Dame struggled early against Boston College – I didn’t realize the hangover from the Oklahoma win could last for two weeks – leading only 7-3 against the seven-loss team through much of the first half. But, slow and steady like they’ve done all season, the Irish continued to build their lead while stifling the opposing offense. In the end, Notre Dame was able to muster three touchdowns and held the Eagles only to a pair of field goals. After yet another strong defensive showing, the Irish have climbed to a tie with Alabama as the nation’s top scoring defense, allowing only 11.1 points-per-game. Only Wake Forest and a tough road trip to USC stand between the Irish and their first undefeated regular season since 1988.
An odd year in the ACC continued last Thursday when the Hokies nearly upset one-loss Florida State. Most years, that wouldn’t be news – Virginia Tech has been the class of the conference since it immigrated from the Big East in 2004. But these Hokies came into the weekend with five losses and Florida State seemed like it’d be their toughest opponent of the season. But, like I said, the ACC is stranger than the plot of Cloud Atlas and it looked like Virginia Tech would eke out a victory after Cody Journell gave his team a two-point lead on a 21-yard field goal with 2:19 left. But, on a harrowing final drive that saw FSU face a fourth down, EJ Manuel found Rashad Greene over the middle and Greene sprinted through and around several Virginia Tech defenders for the deciding 39-yard score. Florida State kept its ACC title hopes alive and the Hokies suffered yet another stomach-churning defeat in the toughest year in Blacksburg in more than a decade.
Need more evidence that the ACC makes no sense this season? If it pleases the court, I present the case of Miami (Fla.) at Virginia. Before Saturday’s contest, UVa. had lost six of seven, three coming by double digits. Miami, conversely, was coming off of consecutive weeks where it hung close with Florida State and easily beat Virginia Tech. So, in the context of the 2012 Atlantic Coast Conference, it makes perfect sense that UVa. would match blows with a speedy Miami offense, claw back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit and pull out the win, right? Because that’s exactly what happened. Miami stud freshman Duke Johnson put up 150 more yards on the ground, but the Cavaliers countered with 388 yards through the air. UVa. quarterbacks Michael Rocco and Phillip Sims combined to go 40 of 51, which kept the chains moving on third down – UVa. converted on nine of its 14 third-down attempts – and kept the ball out of Johnson’s hands. (UVa. held the ball for more than 36 minutes, despite their pass-happy attack.) Though the Hoos have hung around the middle of the pack in the ACC in recent years, the 41-40 win, capped by a 10-yard Rocco touchdown strike with only six seconds lingering on the clock, is UVa.’s third consecutive W against the Hurricanes.
Maybe the Ducks wore themselves out while celebrating Alabama’s loss. Rather than getting up 35-0 in the game’s first five minutes as they’ve done all season, Oregon let Cal hang around for a little while on Saturday night. It didn’t push the lead over the Golden Bears to double digits until a minute remained in the first half. Injuries were partly responsible for the slower-than-usual pace. Both quarterback Marcus Mariota and running back Kenjon Barner left the game for stints after being dinged up. Plus much of Oregon’s starting defensive line didn’t play thanks to lingering health issues. But Oregon seems to have taken offense to Cal cutting the lead to seven early in the third quarter – the Ducks went on to score 25 unanswered to close out the 59-17 win. But, like the end of Rocky IV, we learned that the Russian can be cut, that “he’s not a machine; he’s a man!” Still, they did win by 42, so maybe I’m reading too much into a sluggish two-and-a-half quarters.
I touched on it some above, but the game of the year deserves a little more space. And didn’t we just have the “game of the year” last week? And wasn’t Alabama involved in that one too? While their comeback against LSU was stirring, nothing’s more captivating than the young upstart knocking off the established power. I’ve had a running joke that Disney must be on the verge of making Grown Manziel: The Johnny Football Story any time now. After the Bama win, I wouldn’t be surprised if the search for a screenwriter has actually begun. On Sunday, news leaked that Manziel and Texas A&M were seeking to trademark “Johnny Football”, so don’t rule any of this out.
|TEXAS A&M at ALABAMA|
Manziel may have already set the SEC mark for single game offense – twice – this year, but his best game, by far, came on Saturday. The freshman completed his first seven passes and A&M jumped out to a 20-0 lead in the first quarter…on the road…against Alabama. Again, 20-0…on the road…against Alabama. How does that happen? Nick Saban said after the game that Bama may have been a little out of gas – drained from the tough win against LSU, but 20-0 drained? Alabama, of course, clawed its way back and pulled within three early in the third quarter. But rather than getting swallowed in the rising tide, Manziel & Co. responded. He dropped a pair of perfect deep balls to Ryan Swope and Malcome Kennedy for 42 and 24 yards, respectively, on a two-play, 66-yard, 33-second drive that pushed the lead to 12.
AJ McCarron fired back with a 54-yard touchdown to Amari Cooper. His very next throw, after an A&M punt, was yet another 54-yard completion, but he barely underthrew Kenny Bell by a few feet, robbing Bell the chance to catch the ball in stride and get into the end zone – he had a step on A&M defenders when he made the catch. Four plays later, McCarron would go on to throw the game-deciding interception on an out-route in the end zone. A few more feet on that deep ball, and McCarron wouldn’t have had to make the throw that got picked off. And it was McCarron’s second underthrow on a deep ball in the quarter. Two drives earlier, Cooper took the top off the A&M secondary with a beautiful double move. McCarron found him for a 50-yard completion, but the underthrow allowed A&M defenders to catch up. The very next play, the previous week’s hero, T.J. Yeldon, fumbled, setting up the quick Manziel TD drive. If McCarron gets a little more air under either of those balls, or both, Bama is still undefeated and No. 1. “Game of inches,” is overused, but we saw why it’s true – with a shot at the national championship at stake – on Saturday.
Let’s bring our pal Dennis Green back. Denny, thoughts on the Big East? Yep, yep, who we thought they were, got it. Thanks, I thought you might say that. For a moment it looked like a Big East team might run the table and add a bit more confusion and debate to a complicated season at the top of the rankings. Louisville entered the weekend 9-0, needing to knock off Syracuse and Connecticut, which have combined for 11 losses this year, before a final-week showdown with one-loss Rutgers. Maybe it was looking ahead to that Rutgers tilt a couple of weeks early? Syracuse put this one away in the second quarter, scoring 21 unanswered points during a nine-minute span. After that, the teams traded scores until the clock ticked out on Syracuse’s 45-26 victory. The key to the decisive win? The Orangemen dominated the ground game much like the Obama campaign, amassing 278 yards to Louisville’s 48.
I know Jarvis Jones took the ball from the Gators a few weeks ago in Jacksonville, but did he take their heart too? Wake up, Florida, you’re a good team! Louisiana-Lafayette – a three-loss Sun Belt team – went to Gainesville and held a 20-13 lead through much of the second half on Saturday after it knocked Florida QB Jeff Driskel out of the game and returned a blocked punt for a score midway through the third quarter. The Gators managed to tie it with a Jacoby Brissett touchdown pass with 1:42 left in the fourth. The game seemed destined for overtime, but, in one of the oddest turn of events of the season, Florida’s Loucheiz Purifoy came around the edge on the ensuing Ragin Cajuns’ punt and got a hand on the ball. It fell into the arms of Florida speedster Jelani Jenkins, who took it 36 yards for the decisive score with only two seconds left on the clock. That’s right; two of the last three touchdowns came via blocked punt. Florida escaped an embarrassing loss but ULL should hold its head high. Between James Carville basking in Obama’s victory and ULL’s near-massive upset, it was a pretty good week for Ragin Cajuns all around.
After struggling through much of the first half of the season, Kansas has started to show some fight. Three weeks ago, Texas needed a last-minute TD drive to beat the Jayhawks. This week, they pushed No. 22 Texas Tech all the way to overtime after scoring the final 10 points in regulation. It was a war of contrasting styles. Kansas managed only 29 yards through the air despite the pair of extra drives afforded by overtime. But two of their backs eclipsed 100 yards and the team carved up Texas Tech’s running defense for 390 on the ground. How do you not win a game when you rush for nearly 400 yards? Simple – you yield 508 through the air. Texas Tech threw the ball 61 times and 10 different players caught passes. The Red Raiders pulled it out in double overtime through the air, of course, and held Kansas to a four-and-out on their ensuing possession. Still, the afternoon in Lubbock was undoubtedly the Jayhawks’ best performance of the season.
One of the nation’s hottest teams resides in the Pacific Northwest. No, I’m not talking about Oregon or Stanford. Washington – yes, the Washington Huskies – have been playing solid football through the second half of the season. On Saturday, it won its third consecutive in a decisive 34-15 showing against Utah. Putting up 34 against Utah’s No. 31 defense is no simple task. The teams seemed evenly matched coming in, but were quite the opposite when they stepped onto the field. And look at the rest of Washington’s résumé. Yes, it lost to conference heavyweights Oregon and USC, but it held USC’s explosive offense to only 21 and fell by only seven. More impressive, it knocked off Stanford and Oregon State when both teams were ranked in the top 10. The Huskies final two games are winnable road contests against Colorado and rival Washington State, which could push Washington to an eight-win regular season. I’ve never heard a team quietly make so much noise.
1. Do you know Ka’Deem? You should, because Ka’Deem knows football. Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey led the nation in rushing last week, putting up 366 yards and five scores on 25 carries in Arizona’s 56-31 win against Colorado that left the homecoming crowd delirious. After the performance, which set the Pac-12 record for single-game rushing yards, Carey now boasts the most rushing yards per game (138.1) among tailbacks from AQ schools and is fifth nationally in rushing touchdowns with 18. Oh, and he’s only a sophomore. Look out, Pac-12, a star has emerged and will be the centerpiece of Rich Rodriguez’s exhaustingly fast-paced offense for the next couple of years.
2. A pretty big record was broken in the ACC this weekend, too. UNC and Georgia Tech combined for the most points ever scored in a contest played along the Atlantic Coast in the Yellow Jackets’ 68-50 win in Chapel Hill on Saturday. The new mark eclipsed the old record – set in 1968 when Virginia beat Tulane 63-47 – by eight points. Somehow, amidst all the scoring, the Jackets held UNC star tailback Gio Bernard to only 78 yards. But the biggest development of the game for GT fans like myself was that, after a slow start (yes, somehow this game featured a slow start), Paul Johnson finally decided to hand the quarterbacking duties to freshman Vad Lee. Lee completed six passes for 169 yards and a score, but, more importantly in the triple-option offense, led the team in rushing with 112 yards and a pair of scores. As a team, the Jackets rushed for 380 yards and seven touchdowns. In what will go down as a difficult season overall, Lee’s performance is heartening for Yellow Jacket fans – I’ll have that navy “GT” shirt washed, pressed and ready to go next September. By that I mean I’ll ask my girlfriend to do it, she’ll scoff, and I’ll put it back on, two-year-old buffalo sauce stains and all.
3. As I write this column, I make sure to check the list of weekly statistical leaders to see if anything that catches my eye. And I keep seeing Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray’s name up high on the passing list. After Saturday’s home loss to SEC newcomer Missouri, giving the Volunteers their sixth conference loss in as many tries this year, things may never have been gloomier in Knoxville. But Bray is a bright light breaking through those clouds. Against Mizzou, he added 404 yards, four scores and tossed no picks in 54 attempts. Bray was fourth in the nation in passing last week and No. 1 the week before with 530 yards against Troy. On the season, he stands sixth in the nation in yards per game (321.6) and is tied for fifth with 29 TD passes. Though his Tennessee career hasn’t panned out like he might’ve hoped in the win column, it looks like the strong-armed quarterback might be best-suited to play on Sundays.
It seems like the SEC decided to take a week off to recalibrate after Alabama’s loss. A few of its marquee schools are taking on programs whose mascots might be tricky answers on trivia night. So, this week, I’m pointing my satellite dish West:
No. 14 Stanford
at No. 1 Oregon
8 p.m. ET
During the course of a few hours on Saturday, this game transformed from pretty-good Pac-12 game to, “OMG, significant Pac-12 and national title implications on the line, please send Gus Johnson.” I don’t see Oregon skidding on the road to the national title, but if it’s going to veer off-course, this would be the game it’d happen. Stanford just knocked off Oregon’s other roadblock (and knocked out their starting quarterback in the process), so the upcoming Civil War has lost a bit of its luster. Stanford-Oregon, however, has gained steam. USC tried to go blow-for-blow with Oregon and failed. Stanford will play slower – can the smart, experienced, disciplined Cardinal defense keep Oregon under 40? The Ducks have scored at least 42 points in 11 consecutive games – the longest such streak all-time.
No. 21 Southern Cal
at No. 17 UCLA
3 p.m. ET
I told you my gaze would be affixed on the West this week. The USC-UCLA rivalry has been one-sided recently (USC has won 12 of the last 13) but the addition of Jim L. Mora (yes, after a couple wins, I’ve added the “L.”) has infused a little energy into the clash. Mora and USC coach Lane Kiffin are both young, outspoken and unafraid to salt wounds, so I think we’re in store for one of the more enjoyable Trojan-Bruin showdowns in quite a while. Plus, the Pac-12 South title and a berth in the conference title game look to be at stake in Pasadena on Saturday.
No. 23 Texas Tech
at Oklahoma State
3:30 p.m. ET
The ebbs and flows of the Big 12 this year have been fascinating to watch. (Side note: what the hell is an ebb?) Aside from Kansas State and, perhaps, Oklahoma, the conference hierarchy is muddled. This one will only add to the confusion. Texas Tech has carried the higher ranking for much of the season but has one more conference loss than the Cowboys. Oklahoma State has trotted out three quarterbacks, but has still managed a 6-3 start including wins against West Virginia and TCU and solid showings against Kansas State and Texas. There’s really not much on the line here other than pride, but that doesn’t preclude it from being an entertaining matchup. The numbers and my eyes tell me it’s a dead heat, but I said the same thing about Texas A&M-Mississippi State and we saw how that turned out (see, no back-patting there.)
No. 13 Oklahoma
at West Virginia
7 p.m. ET
If the Mountaineers are going to atone for a dismal month, this would be the game to do it. Oklahoma may be looking ahead to its clash with in-state rival Oklahoma State in two weeks, so maybe, just maybe, West Virginia can catch it off-guard. Per usual, the burden will fall on Geno Smith and the many weapons at his disposal to outscore the other team. After a dominant midseason stretch, Oklahoma seems to have been thrown askew by its 30-13 home loss to Notre Dame. The Sooners managed to only beat five-loss Baylor by a score on Saturday. They’ll need to perform better in Morgantown if they don’t want to find themselves on the wrong end of what could be Smith’s final moment in the collegiate sun.
Views and opinions expressed here are soley those of the writer.
Follow Brian Burnsed on Twitter at @brianburnsed