How long has it been since West Virginia played Oklahoma State? Let me put it this way, the star running back for the Cowboys was Thurman Thomas, now in the NFL Hall of Fame.
Their last meeting was twenty-five years ago, in the 1987 Sun Bowl, and it was a doozy. That Bowl game was Thomas' last as a college football player, and he was the reason Oklahoma State won the game 35-33. Thomas amassed 157 yards on the ground, plus four touchdowns. He would have gained more yards, but a pesky backup, some guy named Barry Sanders, took some carries too.
Oklahoma State's quarterback had a decent game as well, completing 12 of 18 passes for 161 yards and a score. His name? Mike Gundy.
Gundy is now the coach of the Oklahoma State Cowboys. This Saturday's game is giving him a distant sense of deja vu, except he's coaching, not playing. Gunday's deja vu extends to his starting running back, Joseph Randle, as well. People have been buzzing lately about how similar he is to Thurman Thomas.
West Virginia, meanwhile, is riding a three game losing streak. In two of those losses, they managed only 14 points each game. Last week against TCU, the scoring improved but the Mountaineers still lost 39-38 in double overtime.
What can be said of a match-up twenty-five years in the making? Here are three things I am predicting for Saturday's game:
PREDICTION 1: Points will be hard to come by for the Cowboys.
While it is true that Oklahoma State opened up the season with an 84-0 beating of epic proportions, that game was against Savannah State, and Week 1 in the NCAA season typically consists of glorified scrimmages.
The Cowboys have put up bunches of points against inferior competition this year, but West Virginia is far from inferior. The Mountaineers head coach, Dana Holgorsen, coached the Cowboys offense in 2010, and most of what he installed is still there today.
PREDICTION 2: West Virginia will have trouble scoring too.
The main reason the Mountaineers have lost three straight is that opposing defenses have Geno Smith "figured out". Smith is a deep ball quarterback who has his share of struggles with short, dink and dunk passes and long, clock-chewing drives. The lack of a potent rushing attack has not helped matters.
Defenses have been habitually dropping seven into coverage, rushing only four, because they do not fear West Virginia's ground game. Any team that shows itself as one-dimensional, is doomed once opponents learn what that dimension is.
PREDICTION 3: WVU's Geno Smith will feed his coach a mouthful of crow.
Perhaps it was strategic on coach Holgorsen's part, calling out his quarterback as "average" last week. Perhaps he knows that Smith's competitive fire was stoked by that word, and now intends to prove the coach wrong.
Perhaps it wasn't. Either way, Holgorsen wins this one. If Smith plays poorly, he gets to say "I told you so". If Smith has the game of his life, Holgorsen gets to play the "I was just saying that to rile him up" card.
However, Oklahoma State wins this game, if only because they're playing at home, and do not want to lose two home games in one season.