Before the season started, everyone had their own opinions on the Big 12 Conference. Texas took the top spot of the preseason poll and Kansas State was the popular second choice along with Oklahoma. If you were looking for Oklahoma State, you would have to look halfway down the poll, at seven. And if you were looking for West Virginia, you would have to make your way to the end of the list because they were picked to finish dead last in the conference.
West Virginia was given no chance to do anything. They were overlooked and it didn’t take them long to earn some respect. Head Coach Neal Brown said before the season started that his team was pissed that they were picked to finish last in the conference and that they had a boulder (not a chip) on their shoulder.
While the Mountaineers lost a tough game against a top-ten Penn State team to start the year, they then reeled off four straight wins against Duquesne, Pitt, Texas Tech, and TCU. It got to the point where we didn’t have a choice but to take this team seriously.
Quarterback Garrett Greene was playing well during that stretch and the run game was working with CJ Donaldson. Between that and an improving defense, West Virginia found themselves getting off to a 2-0 start in Big 12 play. This team is at their best when they control the clock. In fact, they lead the conference in time of possession.
Unfortunately, they fell short against Houston. It took a Hail Mary to beat this team. And while some may consider it a fluke loss, it still stings quite a bit for the Mountaineer faithful. But this team still has plenty of football left in front of them.
As for Oklahoma State, they had higher expectations going into 2023. Alan Bowman came in as the new transfer quarterback and many thought he would win the job right off the bat. Instead, we saw Mike Gundy use a three-man quarterback rotation that didn’t go well at all.
While the Cowboys got off to a 2-0 start, they didn’t look as good as advertised. Then the wheels fell off against South Alabama in week three as the Jaguars put a 33-7 beatdown on them. They followed that up with a loss to Iowa State on the road and by that point, everyone (including myself) had given up on this team.
It was obvious that the three-man quarterback rotation wasn’t working, and this staff decided to stick with Alan Bowman. Going into the bye week, this team had a lot of self-reflecting to do because they were bad in so many areas. The defense wasn’t playing well, and the offense was sputtering. Meanwhile, highly touted running back Ollie Gordon wasn’t getting enough touches.
I have no clue what happened during that bye week but whatever they did it clearly worked. In the first game after the bye, Oklahoma State hosted the defending Big 12 champions (Kansas State). In that game, the Cowboys looked like a completely different team. Alan Bowman was their guy, and he managed the game well. Meanwhile, Ollie Gordon got over 20 touches and the defense forced some key turnovers including a pick-six. Their performance on that Friday night was good enough for a 29-21 upset victory.
Many people were wondering how Oklahoma State would do after a win like that. Well, they did well because they knocked off another good football team in Kansas. It wasn’t always pretty but they got the job done. In that game, Ollie Gordon got 35 total touches and the offense thrived.
I know everyone wants to talk about Oklahoma and Texas which is fine, but don’t sleep on this game between Oklahoma State and West Virginia. While neither team may be flashy nor play flawless football, both of these teams are capable of knocking anyone off at any given moment.
Here we are in mid-October, and you can make a case that this game between Oklahoma State and West Virginia has Big 12 championship implications. That is pretty crazy to say considering where these teams were picked prior to the season starting.