MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — John Denver's nostalgic ballad echoes throughout the stadium during cherished pre- and post-game traditions at Mountaineer Field.
The West Virginia marching band performs “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” before each game, and after Mountaineer home wins, thousands of fans proudly sing along while the classic folk song blares from the stadium sound system.
“Almost heaven, West Virginia,” begins the song, praising the state's beautiful, mountainous terrain.
Hours after wistfully singing of their state's beauty, though, many West Virginia fans have a reputation for setting fire to it.
The Big 12 isn't in Nebraska anymore.
West Virginia University sits in Morgantown, a college football outpost nearly 800 miles from its closest Big 12 bedfellow. The terrain, traditions and stadium are all foreign to Oklahoma, which plays its first-ever game at West Virginia on Saturday at 6 p.m.
“I know their fans are really hostile ... I've heard stories about burned mattresses and all that stuff,” said OU co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell, who, like virtually every Sooner coach or player, has never been to Morgantown.
“It'll be fun to play there. It's always fun to play in different places. They're a new part of the league now; we'll be going up there every other year, and I'm looking forward to it.”
West Virginia was thrilled to escape the Big East Conference, where it was viewed nationally as having little-to-no serious competition, and join the Big 12.
Morgantown Mayor and lifelong resident Jim Manilla views the conference realignment as an opportunity to showcase the city he loves.
“It's a very nice place to live,” Manilla said. “The city has talked about not just making a really good first impression, but a lasting impression.”
Over the past several years, though, Morgantown has gained some unwelcomed notoriety because of its unruly celebrations after football wins. And the problem hasn't abated during the Mountaineers' inaugural Big 12 season.
Following West Virginia's 48-45 win at Texas on Oct. 6, about 40 fires were set around Morgantown late into the night and early morning. Police needed riot gear, pepper spray and tear gas to battle a crowd of around 1,000 people who threw bottles and rocks at the officers.
Manilla said the town is working on initiatives to curb the violent celebrations.
“We've had a few issues here,” Manilla said. “But we've gotten really good feedback from the fans coming from that area.”
Even though Sooners coach Bob Stoops and his brother, defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, haven't played or coached in Morgantown, they might feel a little more at home than most visiting Okies: They'll have family and friends in the stands, coming to watch the game from Youngstown, Ohio, the Stoops' hometown.
“I'm gonna have about 80 people from Youngstown coming,” Stoops said. “Got a couple buses heading that way.”
Most Sooner players said they've never been to West Virginia — safety Javon Harris thinks he may have driven through the state once — but did add they're becoming more accustomed to the faraway school being in their conference.
“At first it was (weird),” said senior defensive lineman Jamarkus McFarland. “I grew up not seeing them in this conference, but now it's just another team.
“They're gonna put teams in the conference; you've gotta have the ability to get on the field with anybody you play. ... When you go to the bowl game, you're not for certain gonna play a Big 12 team, so you have to be ready to play against anybody.”
There are 27 teams in the six BCS conferences who haven't ever hosted Oklahoma in their home cities.
One of those, West Virginia, hosts the Sooners on Saturday at 6 p.m.
Here's a look at all the BCS-conference teams that have never hosted the Sooners.
Clemson -- Duke -- Georgia Tech* -- NC State -- Virginia Tech -- Virginia -- Wake Forest
Iowa -- Michigan -- *Michigan State -- Penn State -- *Purdue
Connecticut -- Rutgers -- South Florida
Oregon State -- Washington State -- Utah
Auburn -- Florida -- *Georgia -- LSU -- *Mississippi State -- Ole Miss -- *South Carolina -- Tennessee
* Team has never played Oklahoma in any venue.
** Oklahoma plays at West Virginia on Saturday