Oklahoma St.-West Virginia Preview (Oct 28, 2017)

October 24, 2017

West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen admires what he has seen from Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph, even if that has included repeated success against the Mountaineers.

"We've been competing against this guy for four years, it seems like," said Holgorsen, who is actually preparing to face Rudolph a third time Saturday in Morgantown. "Mason is really mature. He's a big, tall, good-looking dude that throws the ball extremely well.

"He has a great knowledge of their offense. And he has a really good relationship with probably one of the best receiving corps in college football."

Rudolph has quarterbacked the Cowboys to wins in both of his starts against West Virginia -- in overtime in 2015 and 37-20 in Stillwater a year ago when he threw for three scores.

And behind Rudolph, the No. 11-ranked Cowboys (6-1, 3-1 Big 12) enter Saturday's matchup as the favorite over No. 22 West Virginia (5-2, 3-1).

Yet this time, Holgorsen has his own hot hand of a quarterback in Will Grier, the nation's leader in touchdown passes with 26 while throwing just five interceptions.

"He's had a lot of success," Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said of Grier. "His completion percentage and his touchdown-to-interception ratio and such are very good. He has fit well into their system. And he's playing with a lot of confidence, from what it looks like to me when I watch him on video.

"I think this guy throws it better than anybody we've played up to this point."

The quarterback matchup commands the spotlight, yet there are plenty more storylines in this Top 25 pairing.

Each team's top wide receivers -- James Washington for the Cowboys and West Virginia's David Sills V -- rate among the country's best playmakers and deep threats.

Oklahoma State hopes to get healthy along its offensive line, an issue in last Saturday's 13-10 overtime win at Texas, which utilizes a similar defensive approach as the Mountaineers.

And most importantly, the game sets up as a likely Big 12 elimination bout, with the loser absorbing a second conference loss that will be difficult to overcome with four weeks remaining after this weekend.

The league standings are bunched, with TCU at the top with a 4-0 conference record. Four schools, including the Mountaineers and Cowboys, sit at 3-1, all hoping to advance to the Big 12 title game.

"We don't address it every week," Holgorsen said. "That's what everybody's goal is going into the season, and as long as you're in the conversation, then I think you're going to get your team's best effort every week.

"Half the league is ranked in the Top 25. That tells you how good the league really is."

The quarterbacks figure to play prominent roles in the outcome.

Rudolph tied Gundy for the program lead in career quarterback wins a week ago, moving to 28-7 as the starter. The senior has thrown for more than 11,000 yards in his career with 74 touchdowns and a completion percentage better than 63 percent.

Rudolph sits No. 1 nationally in passing yards and passing yards per game (378.6). He is 161 of 242 for 2,650 yards and 19 touchdowns, with just four interceptions.

Grier is in his first season as West Virginia's starter after transferring from Florida. He already is making his mark on the program, setting a Mountaineers record with seven straight 300-yard passing games to begin his career. His back-to-back five-touchdown games against Texas Tech and Baylor the past two weeks are also West Virginia records.

For the season, he is 177 of 267 for 2,467 yards. Besides leading the nation in touchdown passes, he ranks fourth in passing yards per game (352.4) and fifth in passing efficiency.

Rudolph and Grier are battling for quarterback supremacy, both in the Big 12 and nationally.

"It's still year one for Will," Holgorsen said. "They're both very seasoned guys, though. They're both older guys -- very mature guys -- but Will is still trying to establish his timing with more than just a couple of guys.

"We know it exists with Gary (Jennings Jr.) and with David, and we're trying to get it with a couple of other guys. That's what Oklahoma State has right now that we're still lacking."