With three games to play, West Virginia and Oklahoma are on the edge of the race for a berth in the Big 12 Championship Game.
Even so, the teams are in much different places entering a matchup Saturday in Norman, Okla.
West Virginia (6-3, 4-2 Big 12) has built some momentum in recent weeks, winning back-to-back games.
“I think we’re starting to hit our stride,” Mountaineers coach Neal Brown said. “I think the story of this season is far from written.”
It’s a significant turnaround from West Virginia’s two-game losing streak in October.
No. 17 Oklahoma (7-2, 4-2) dropped back-to-back, one-possession games — a 38-33 loss to Kansas on Oct. 28 and a 27-24 loss to Oklahoma State last weekend in the expected finale of the Bedlam series.
Sooners quarterback Dillon Gabriel said he hopes the team will respond after falling out of the College Football Playoff race.
“I don’t know yet,” Gabriel said. “I think we’ll know come Saturday. That’ll be a big deciding factor in how we respond.”
For the Sooners, the biggest recent difference has been turnovers.
During its 7-0 start, Oklahoma had five turnovers.
In the consecutive losses leading into this matchup, the Sooners have six giveaways — four fumbles and two interceptions.
“When you turn the ball over, everything else just gets highlighted all the other mistakes that are there, even through 7-0 – nobody’s seeing that,” Oklahoma coach Brent Venables said.
West Virginia comes in with the No. 7 rushing offense in the country, averaging 218 yards per game.
In their previous two games, the Mountaineers have averaged 311 rushing yards. West Virginia leading rusher CJ Donaldson has rushed for 223 yards in that span while Jaheim White has rushed for 231.
“They have good chemistry out there on the field when you watch them,” Venables said, noting his belief that the Mountaineers’ line is the strength of its offense.. “They have a lot of pre-snap communication. They don’t turn people loose. They do a great job of protecting the passer.”
Last season, West Virginia beat the Sooners for the first time in the Big 12 era, 23-20, in Morgantown on a last-second field goal. Oklahoma is 7-1 all-time against the Mountaineers in Norman.
The Mountaineers have been without starting right tackle Doug Nester and wide receiver Hudson Clement in recent weeks.
Brown said Nester was closing in on returning while Clement, who has missed the last two games with an ankle injury, could’ve been used against BYU had it been absolutely necessary but that he still wasn’t fully healthy.
Oklahoma has it own injury concerns.
Weakside linebacker Danny Stutsman, the Sooners’ leading tackler, missed last week’s game with an ankle injury while running back Tawee Walker played sparingly against the Cowboys. He suffered a leg injury the week before against Kansas.
Venables was hopeful both would be ready Saturday, along with cornerback Gentry Williams, who suffered a shoulder injury against Oklahoma State.
–Field Level Media