2008 Fiesta Bowl Preview: Oklahoma Sooners vs. West Virginia Mountaineers

2008 Fiesta Bowl Preview and Pick: Oklahoma Sooners (11-2) -6.5, 65 O/U vs. West Virginia Mountaineers
(10-2) +6.5, 65 O/U, U of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona, 8 PM
Eastern, Wednesday January 2nd

by Badger of Predictem.com

The site of last years title game, the Fiesta Bowl, plays host to
another excellent game this year as the Oklahoma Sooners will meet up
versus the West Virginia Mountaineers.

Going into the start of the season if you would have predicted an
Oklahoma-West Virginia BCS game, you would have figured it would be
for the title. Two big losses by both teams, Oklahomas early, West
Virginias late, have turned this into a game for program bragging
rights instead of the national title.

Oklahoma comes in a very hot team, one that looked extremely
impressive in their 38-17 victory over Missouri in the Big 12
Championship game December 1st. They are also a very popular team, so
it is no surprise that sportsbooks opened the game with the Sooners
as a 6.5-point favorite. The total opened at 65.

West Virginia is coming into the game at one of the lowest points in
program history. All they needed was a win and they were in, but they
laid a huge turd as a four-TD favorite versus their backyard
rival Pittsburgh, 13-9 at home. Ouch.

Oklahomas offense is surprisingly good considering it is run by a
freshman, Sam Bradford. Bradford has played real well (2,879 yards,
70% comp., 34/7 TD/INT) and his ability to throw the ball is the
perfect complement to their power running game with Allen Patrick (8
TD’s) and Chris Brown (8 TD’s) and a big and physical offensive line.
The Sooners ended the year as the 18th-ranked team in total yards
(451.2), but they finished 3rd in points scored at 43.3 per game.

West Virginia will still show up with a powerful running offense, led
by quarterback Pat White. White dislocated his thumb in the Pitt
game, but will have plenty of time to heal before the game. White
(1,149 yds., 14 TD’s), Steve Slaton (1,053, 17) and Noel Devine (519,
4) all help to make the Mountaineers the 4th-ranked rushing offense
in the NCAA at 292.4 yards per game. Receiver Darius Reynaud is the
Mountaineers best passing-game weapon (691 yds. rec., 11 TD’s), but he
is the only weapon as West Virginias 114th-rank in passing yards per
game (just 157.6) would indicate. They also put points on the board,
averaging 38.9 per contest (11th).

Even though both schools have potent offenses, make no mistake this
game will be won by one of the defenses. Both teams have good ones too.

West Virginia is ranked higher statistically (4th in yards allowed,
Oklahoma is 18th), but you won’t find many who think the Sooners are
inferior on the field. Both are virtually the same in points allowed,
with West Virginias average of 17.2 (7th) just slightly better then
Oklahomas 18.2 (9th).

Neither team has been good to sports bettors this season, as Oklahoma
is 7-6 ATS (2 covers in a row) while West Virginia is 6-6 ATS. The
schools have never played each other before, so theres no history to

The betting trend on the over/under bet is leaning to the under. The
under is 7-3 in West Virginias last 10 games. Also, Oklahoma has
failed to reach the total in their last three games of 2007, and has
failed to reach the total in 6 of their last 8 bowl games. The only
stat to the contrary is Oklahomas 7-1 record of going over the total
in their last 9 non-conference games.

As stated before, Oklahoma is a popular team in this one and that has
caused the spread to already go up to Oklahoma -7 in some Las Vegas
sportsbooks. The total on the other hand has gone down since it was
released, dropping to 64.5 or even 63.5 at some offshore sportsbooks,
as bettors are staring at a matchup of two strong defenses.

Badgers Pick: Just like in the Orange Bowl (Kansas-VaTech), the
contrast of offensive styles are going to affect this game early.
Oklahoma doesn’t see a run offense like West Virginias in the Big
12, its more of a passing conference. The Mountaineers will bust a
few big runs to make it battle. But Oklahoma will figure it out on
defense shortly after halftime and pull away late. Take Oklahoma
minus the points now before the number goes up higher than 7.