(This is the latest in a series of articles by Jim Butta, a veteran sports writer for The Parkersburg News and Sentinel, who has served as the beat writer for the Mountaineers.)
(AP) - The analysis is a compilation of research done on each opponent West Virginia will face during the 2012 season.
Much of the information comes from the team’s spring prospectus as well as stories written about the program during, and after, its spring drills.
- Sooners Preview: If you believe every thing you read, Oklahoma is coming off of a disappointing campaign in 2011. Bob Stoops’ Sooners posted a final 10-3 mark, including a 31-14 beat down of Iowa in the Insight Bowl, but posted only a 6-3 mark in the Big 12.
The last time the Sooners and Mountaineers met on the gridiron, the old gold and blue inflicted a 48-28 whipping upon the then-Big 12 champions in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl. You can bet that Stoops and his staff will be reminding their players about that embarrassing setback when they pay their first-ever visit to Morgantown on Satuday, Nov. 10.
Offense: When it comes to putting points on the scoreboard, Oklahoma takes a backseat to no NCAA D-I program. The Sooners averaged 39.5 points and 512.3 total yards per game.
The trio most responsible for those numbers return as quarterback Landry Jones ranked No. 1 all-time among signal-callers for the Sooners after completing 355-of-562 attempts for 4,463 yards and 29 touchdowns with 15 interceptions.
Also back is senior running back Dominique Whaley, who led the team with 627 yards and nine touchdowns on 113 carries, and junior wide receiver Kenny Stills, who was second on the team with 849 yards and eight touchdowns on 61 receptions.
If Stoops and his staff can find a solid replacement for leading receiver Ryan Broyles, then fans can expect to see another explosive offense when the Sooners have the football.
Defense: The Sooners arguably the top defense in the Big 12 in 2011, surrendering only 22.1 points and allowing only 376.2 yards per game.
Leading tackler Aaron Colvin (84 tackles) returns, but the Sooners must find replacements for a pair of all-Big 12 ends and the secondary needs to improve dramatically for OU to maintain its excellence.
Linebacker Tom Wort is an aggressive and physical player and Corey Nelson returns after leading the team with 5.5 sacks last fall.
Senior cornerback Demontre Hurst is one of four returning starters in the secondary, joining Colvin, senior strong safety Javon Harris and junior free safety Tony Jefferson.
Specialists: Punter Tres Way ranks among the nation’s elite, giving the Sooners a strong leg as well as an ability to pin opposing offenses inside the 20.
Sophomore Michael Hunnicutt gained the starting job against Missouri last season and never gave it up, setting a school record with 21 field goals. The return units, however, are in major need of help.
Overall: Regardless of what happened in 2008 in Glendale, or what happened 12 months ago, this is Oklahoma. You can not find a preseason prediction that does not have the Sooners battling for a spot in the national championship game.
West Virginia does have the experience and, more importantly, the home atmosphere to challenge the preseason No. 1 pick in the Big 12. This game has all of the makings for a setting much like last year’s encounter with then-No. 2 LSU.
About the only thing Mountaineer fans can hope for us a different result than the 48-21 setback the Tigers dealt WVU in that contest. On a different note, the game features two quarterbacks WVU’s Geno Smith and OU’s Landry Jones favored to be in the final four of the Heisman Trophy balloting.
Series: WVU is tied at 2-2.