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BOWL PREVIEW: Tostitos Fiesta

As I begin to write this post, the Sugar Bowl isn't officially over, but I don't think it's going out on a limb to say Hawaii will indeed lose to Georgia and do so with far less than the 35 points I projected. UPDATE: Not surprisingly, this ended up being correct.

My record straight-up improved markedly after Tuesday's action, with a 5-1 mark on New Year's Day improving my postseason record to 18-9. But a delayed blowout in the Rose Bowl and Missouri's stifling defense in the Cotton Bowl helped hold my record against the score to 1-5 on Tuesday, 7-20 overall.

Bowl: Tostitos Fiesta, 8 p.m., Fox

Teams: No. 9 West Virginia vs. No. 3 Oklahoma

West Virginia's season was... Until the game against Pitt, a dream season. The Mountaineers went into the final week of the year needing only to beat the woeful Panthers to wrap up a slot in the NC game. Instead, they collapsed when QB Pat White went down and lost, 13-9. But West Virginia still won the Big East, which ended up putting them in the Fiesta Bowl. Not a bad year.

Oklahoma's season was... Also the kind of year that makes a BCS berth look like a consolation prize. In the first few weeks of the season, Oklahoma joined LSU, Florida and Southern Cal as the four teams everyone thought would blow the doors off the rest of the country. A 27-24 loss to Colorado put an end to that idea (as did losses by all three other teams). Oklahoma rebounded for its own shot at the NC game before being upset by Texas Tech, 34-27, in the next-to-last game of the regular season. But the Sooners also soundly defeated Missouri twice and edged Texas by a touchdown.

West Virginia impact player: White's importance to the team was best summed up by one of his future opponents.

"They go as [White] goes," said [Oklahoma] linebacker Curtis Lofton. "We definitely scheme around him and we're trying to stop him."

White is 134-of-197 throwing, piling up 1,548 yards and 12 TDs against 4 INTs. And because of the mysterious decline of Steve Slaton as chronicled by Forde in the article above, White is the teams leading rusher, running the ball 177 for 1,185 yards (6.7 ypc) and 14 TDs.

Oklahoma impact player: QB Sam Bradford, an uberfreshman who is 216-of-306 for 2,879 yards and 34 TDs against just 7 INTs. When he had a rough game, so did the Sooners; Bradford was knocked out of the Texas Tech loss early and went just 8-of-19 for 112 yards, one score and two picks against Colorado. Outside of those two games, Bradford averaged 275.6 ypg.

Why West Virginia will win: First, Oklahoma has a habit of coughing up the big games. Remember the loss in the 2003 Big XII CG? Or the 55-19 rout at the hands of Southern Cal in the 2004 NCG? Or the stunning loss to Boise State last year?

The annual January selection of the Bob Stoops Book Club.

Also, Pat White is healthy and the Mountaineers are out to show Rich Rodriguez why he should have stayed at WVU.

Why Oklahoma will win: The Sooners defense is, as usual, dominating, limiting opponents to 18.2 ppg. But the 2007 edition of Oklahoma is also explosive on offense, scoring an average of 43.4 points. West Virginia could be in disarray after the loss of Rodriguez, or players could try so hard to "show him" that they blow it.

Fun sponsor fact: There are 11 varieties of Tostitos, including "Hint of Lime" and "Natural," a variety that apparently consists of Tostitos that grow on trees.

Prediction: This should shape up to be a good game. (But what do I know? I thought Hawaii would score 35 and Illinois would hold Southern Cal to 22?) Both teams have tough total defenses -- 4th for the Mountaineers (granted, largely against the Big East) and 18th for the Sooners. Both are also very good offenses, with Oklahoma scoring the 3rd-most points in the nation and West Virginia checking in at 11th. My best guess is that Oklahoma has the slightest of advantages, and the pain of being sucker-punched by Rodriguez's departure is still too fresh for a lot of the Mountaineers to focus clearly on the Sooners. Oklahoma 24, West Virginia 20