|Oklahoma State RB Joseph Randle leads the Big 12 in rushing yards per game at 116.75. (US Presswire)|
Kickoff: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET (ABC/ESPN2 reverse mirror)
Spread: Oklahoma State by 7.5
Watchability: It's not exactly a marquee matchup, but it should be entertaining. Both teams run Dana Holgorsen's version of the spread offense. He installed it in 2010 as offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State before taking the head coaching job at WVU in 2011 and doing the same. Add the incentive both teams have to avoid some dubious history -- Oklahoma State hasn't lost back-to-back regular season games since 2007; West Virginia hasn't lost four in a row since 2001 -- and the game should at least be competitive.
Shining stars: West Virginia -- WR/KR/PR Tavon Austin. Through the Mountaineers' recent struggles, Austin has been the one consistent threat. He is tops in the nation in receptions per game (10.62) and No. 8 in receiving yards per game (111.12). Almost all of his yardage comes after the catch. He may be the most elusive athlete in the Big 12, and he adds to his arsenal by being a formidable returner. He has scored a kick or punt return touchdown in each of WVU's past two games. Oklahoma State -- RB Joseph Randle. The nation's 14th-leading rusher (averaging 116.75 yards per game) and arguably the most talented player at his position in the Big 12, Randle had rushed for at least 80 yards in every game this season (and topped 100 yards in all but one) before getting held to only 43 in last week's loss to Kansas State. The Cowboys may have a wide open passing attack, but they set that up by using Randle early and often. He has 20 or more carries in all but two games this season.
Who could steal the show: West Virginia -- RB Shawne Alston. The senior finally returned from a thigh bruise last week against TCU, albeit in a limited role (only seven carries). His injury, sustained in the team's second game of the season, has been painful. He estimated this week he is only at about 65 percent of his optimal health, but with WVU's rushing game struggling, he will still be counted on to keep the Cowboys from dropping into soft pass coverage. Oklahoma State -- WR Josh Stewart. No matter who plays quarterback for the Cowboys, Stewart is their favorite target -- and with good reason. He averages 83.25 receiving yards per game, but hasn't scored a touchdown since Sept. 29 against Texas. That could change against WVU, which has the nation's No. 120 pass defense, allowing 350 yards per game through the air.
You going? Ranking the road trip: Oklahoma State sold a school-record 48,876 season tickets this season, and folks there should be very familiar with WVU's coaching staff, which includes three former assistants under OSU coach Mike Gundy (Holgorsen, as well as co-defensive coordinator Joe DeForest and running backs coach Robert Gillespie). Boone Pickens Stadium might be just a bit rowdier than usual to welcome back those old faces.
Magic number for West Virginia: 40. It's key in two ways: the Mountaineers are 172-0 all-time when scoring 40 or more in a game, and with the defense allowing 39.75 points per game (116th in the nation), the team might need that many points to win anyway.
Magic number for Oklahoma State: The Cowboys are 110th in the nation in turnover margin, at minus-1.13 per game. They lost five turnovers in last week's loss to Kansas State. Even with WVU's offense struggling, that's a recipe for disaster if it happens again.
The game comes down to: Was last week's success a fluke for West Virginia's defense? The Mountaineers forced seven three-and-outs and three takeaways against TCU, and many of the Horned Frogs' 39 points came as a result of short fields and miscues on offense and special teams. Still, this is a different sort of test for the WVU defense, as Oklahoma State averages 42.5 points per game.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 41, West Virginia 28
For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis from Big 12 bloggers C.J. Moore and Patrick Southern, follow @CBSSportsBig12 on Twitter. You can also follow C.J. (@cjmoore4) and Patrick (@patricksouthern).