The West Virginia Mountaineers open Big 12 Conference play on the road at Oklahoma at 7:30 EST in a nationally televised game on ABC.
"Huge challenge this week with Oklahoma," said West Virginia head coach Neal Brown.
Oklahoma has won six straight Big 12 Conference Championships and, since 2015, has only lost six conference games, including two conference home openers versus Kansas State. The Sooners have won 11 consecutive games. The 11-game winning streak is tied with Texas A&M for the second-longest winning streak in the country, with Alabama holding the top spot with 17 straight wins.
"I think it's a great opportunity for our program. ABC. 7:30 eastern primetime game, playing in one of the most tradition-rich venues in college football," continued Brown.
Neal Brown did not spend much time on the Sooners special teams after noting that all three of their specialists, punter, kicker and long snapper are All-American Candidates. In addition, punter Michael Turk, a grad transfer from Arizona State, is on the Ray Guy Award Watch List, kicker Gabe Brkic appears on the Lou Groza Award Watch List, and long snapper Kasey Kelleher is listed on the Patrick Mannelly Award Watch List.
He also noted, "They do a great job blocking punts."
The Oklahoma offense has gotten off to a slow start compared to their standards. Yet, they are averaging 46.3 points per game. Since West Virginia joined the Big 12 in 2012, The Sooners are 8-0 versus the Mountaineers averaging 47.9 ppg and an average margin of victory of 17.8 ppg. The two did not meet last year due to not meeting the COVID-19 protocols.
"We have not done a very good job of stopping them in '19 when we played them or the few years before that," said Brown.
Left guard Marquis Hayes and right tackle Wanya Morris were voted to the 2021 Preseason All-Big 12 Conference team. However, Tyrese Robinson has started at right tackle in the first three games.
"I think Bill Bedenbaugh, who was here [WVU] for a good bit [2011-12], does a great job with their offensive line," said Brown. "They're your typical Oklahoma offensive line - they're big. They do a great job with their gap run schemes."
Marvin Mims leads the team in receiving yards with 168 (eight receptions), while Jadon Haselwood has a team-leading 14 receptions for 127 yards and two touchdowns, and Mario Williams has hauled in 13 passes for 115 yards and two touchdowns.
"I think they may have the best receiver group in the country," said Brown before mentioning tight end Austin Stogner and Heisman hopeful quarterback Spencer Rattler.
"They're really talented on offense – got great scheme and talent. It's going to be a challenge for us. Our biggest challenge so far this year without a doubt," he said.
The Oklahoma defense ranks No. 21 in the country in rush defense, allowing 83.3 yards on the ground per game.
"I think that [Defensive Coordinator Alex] Grinch has done a really good job of stabilizing that side of the ball," said Brown. I think they are playing at a high level. Schematically, he gives you some issues. I think there is a lot of similarities between how they operate their front six and how we operate our front."
Their D-line are difference makers across the board," continued Brown.
Defensive tackle Perrion Winfrey and Isaiah Thomas were 2021 Preseason All-Big 12 Conference selections.
"Those kids are all high-round NFL draft picks, and we're going to have to compete hard on the interior part of our offensive line and at tackle. And we're going to have to give our guys the best opportunities to do that, but those are special guys that are playing in their defensive line. Also stating defensive lineman Jalen Redmond is an All-Big 12 type of player as well.
Rounding out the Sooners on the 2021 Preseason All-Big 12 Conference team is linebacker Nik Bonitto. He's accompanied by veteran linebackers David Ugwoegbu (Mike) DaShaun White (Will).
Oklahoma keeps a lid on its opposition with senior safeties Delarrin Turner-Yell and Pat Fields on the backend.
"Those safeties and those linebackers have been playing a long time, and they have a great feel for the system that Grinch has in place there," said Brown.
"It's a challenge in all three phases without a doubt. They look like what you think Oklahoma looks like when you turn on the film," he concluded.
West Virginia is 2-10 all-time versus Oklahoma and 1-6 in Norman. The Mountaineers last win over the Sooners came in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl.
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