MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - If West Virginia's football team is at all intimidated by having to go into Norman, Okla., Saturday night and play No. 16 Oklahoma, perhaps it would settle the Mountaineers down to simply watch the tape of last year's game between the teams in Morgantown.
After all, the Sooners went into that one ranked even higher (by three spots) and in many ways more settled. They had an offense that was led by a four-year starter at quarterback, a tackle who would go in the top four picks in the NFL draft and two receivers good enough to be picked in that same draft. OU's defense wasn't lights out, by any means, but it seemed competent.
And all the then-reeling Mountaineers did was put up 49 points on the Sooners at Mountaineer Field and come within a whisker of winning, losing by a point.
So, if nothing else, there is clear evidence just sitting there in the video room attesting to what West Virginia is capable of doing against Oklahoma, right? Just put it up on the screen.
"We haven't watched that tape,'' coach Dana Holgorsen said Tuesday. "We won't watch that tape.''
Of course, there's good reason for that.
Aside from the fact that West Virginia scored nearly half a hundred in that game with a dramatically different cast of characters, there was also the element of surprise. That was the game that Holgorsen moved Tavon Austin into the backfield and took advantage of an Oklahoma defensive scheme heavily weighted toward rushing the passer and defending the throws that Geno Smith did manage to get off. It left the middle of the field open for a runner of Austin's shiftiness to run wild if he got past that pass rush.
And he did, gaining a school-record 344 rushing yards. Oklahoma never adjusted.
Holgorsen referred to it Tuesday as "a perfect storm.'' And in addition to the fact that Austin is no longer around, the Sooners have addressed the flaw in their scheme - essentially a one-linebacker alignment - that allowed it to happen.
"Yeah,'' Holgorsen said when asked if he thought Oklahoma had corrected the defensive oversight. "I would imagine immediately.''
Indeed, since that game and a couple of others after that in which the Sooner defense was torched - Oklahoma State scored 48 a week later, Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M hung 41 in the Cotton Bowl and those three teams combined for 1,901 yards - Oklahoma has made some changes. The most significant is a shift toward more of a 3-3-5 alignment. At times last year the Sooners would play a four-man line and seven defensive backs, leaving that huge gap in the middle.
It's just a small sampling, of course, but so far, so good. In Oklahoma's opener last week against Louisiana-Monroe - the same team that beat Arkansas and lost by a combined eight points to Auburn and Baylor in recent years - the Sooners pitched their first shutout since 2010 and held the Warhawks to 166 yards.