NORMAN — During July's Big 12 Media Days, lots of anticipatory chatter centered around a game that was nearly four months away.
West Virginia defensive end Will Clarke, speaking then of his team's late-season showdown with Oklahoma, said, “In every season, you always have that one game that everyone circles, either in their mind, or their apartment, or somewhere.”
Saturday, as was expected, a coveted BCS berth will be on the line — for one team, at least — when the Big 12 stalwart and flashy newcomer meet in Morgantown.
With its four-game losing streak, West Virginia went from being a 5-0 team with national-title aspirations to a squad needing another win just to reach bowl eligibility.
The Mountaineers' stunning collapse and Oklahoma's two losses have stripped the game of much of its luster, but each team still has a lot to gain — and lose — Saturday.
Alabama's loss Saturday made an Oklahoma appearance in a BCS bowl game much more plausible.
If Kansas State wins its two remaining games — Saturday at Baylor and a Dec. 1 home game against Texas — the Wildcats would be a virtual lock for the national championship game, leaving the Big 12 champion's Fiesta Bowl spot available for the Sooners to fill.
But if two-loss Oklahoma becomes three-loss Oklahoma, its chances of securing such a berth are greatly decreased.
West Virginia has lots of issues that have contributed to its downfall, but it is still a prideful — and desperate, which can be dangerous — program, gets Oklahoma at home and features a talented offense fully capable of scoring loads of points.
One-time Heisman front-runner Geno Smith has thrown for 3,041 yards, 31 touchdowns and only three interceptions.
In the Sooners' 42-34 home win over Baylor, the OU defense allowed more points than it has all season.
Baylor had been a pass-first team for much of its season before Saturday, but took advantage of Oklahoma's game plan, which coach Bob Stoops said sought to limit deep passes by sacrificing some in run defense.
“Some of the teams anymore, that spread it out a little more, you have to be more aware of what you're asking guys to do coverage wise,” Stoops said. “People are just too precise and good throwing the football anymore to live the old way.”
Even with that plan, though, Baylor had its downfield opportunities. Bears quarterback Nick Florence completed some long passes, and other times, Baylor wideouts got behind the secondary but either dropped passes or had them overthrown.
Smith has big-play threats Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey at his disposal; each receiver average over 100 yards per game.
“I think you can learn a lot,” OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said of the Baylor game. “They exposed weaknesses in our defense. We've got to address them. All the teams we play can do all the things they do.”