Preview: West Virginia at Oklahoma

September, 6, 2013
9/06/13
10:00
AM ET
NORMAN, Okla. -- Oklahoma’s defense will get a chance to redeem itself on Saturday.

The Sooners host West Virginia at 6 p.m. at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. The Mountaineers exposed OU’s defense with 778 total yards in last season's meeting, and the Sooners’ defensive players haven’t forgotten.

Here are some storylines, players to watch and a prediction:

Storylines for Week 2

Was Week 1 a fluke for the Sooners defense? Oklahoma had one of the best defensive performances of the Bob Stoops-era in its season-opening 34-0 win over Louisiana-Monroe. The Sooners looked fast, aggressive and athletic. But WVU promises to test OU in different ways with Dana Holgorsen's creativity and a deep backfield of runners led by Charles Sims.

Trevor Knight will be looking to prove doubters wrong. The Sooners’ redshirt freshman quarterback showed signs he can be a terrific playmaker but struggled to throw the ball in his first start. He finished 11 of 28 for 86 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. It’s sparked doubts about his ability to throw the ball. He can silence those doubters on Saturday.

West Virginia will test the Sooners’ secondary. OU’s secondary looked very solid in Week 1, but the Mountaineers will test the discipline and focus of the unit while also forcing OU to test its overall depth as well. Cornerback Zack Sanchez was outstanding in his debut and cornerback Cortez Johnson returns from suspension. OU is confident it is better in the secondary this season. We shall see.

Players to watch

Linebacker Corey Nelson: The senior was terrific against ULM, making plays all over the field and helping to contain the quarterback on passing plays. He’ll have to be even better against WVU, who features three different running backs, including Sims. Nelson excels in the running game yet also shines in space when WVU will try to attack him with slot receivers or passes to running backs.

Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips: When Phillips is creating a consistent push in the middle, OU’s defense rises to another level. He was disruptive against ULM and could become an all-conference performer if he continues to progress like he has thus far. If WVU quarterback Paul Millard has time to throw, he has the ability to make OU pay. Phillips’ ability to collapse the pocket could be critical so he must play well.

Receiver Jalen Saunders: The Mountaineers are likely to try to put the game in Knight’s hands by forcing the Sooners to throw. That’s where Saunders could come into play. He’ll win most one-on-one matchups, and WVU’s pass defense proved to be suspect against William and Mary. Saunders may be in line for a huge game.

Reason for concern: Sims could create problems for OU’s defense with his shifty nature and ability to catch passes out of the backfield. He provides a terrific bail-out option if the Sooners’ pass rush is too strong, and he’s a difficult one-on-one open-field matchup for any defender. Limiting Sims impact on the game will be key for the Sooners.

Prediction: OU 38, West Virginia 28. Turnovers decide this one as Millard has two costly mistakes and OU capitalizes with 14 points that end up being the difference. Knight is solid in start No. 2 with over 300 yards passing and three touchdowns.

Brandon Chatmon | email

Oklahoma/Big 12 reporter

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