STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — No. 7 West Virginia hopes for a spot in the Big 12 Championship game and possibly a berth in the College Football Playoff.
The next challenge for the Mountaineers (8-1, 6-1 Big 12, No. 9 CFP) comes Saturday when they visit Oklahoma State (5-5, 2-5), which is coming off a 48-47 loss at No. 6 Oklahoma last week.
Oklahoma State has endured a disappointing and inconsistent season, with big wins over quality opponents (Boise State, Texas) and puzzling losses to other teams (Texas Tech, Kansas State, Baylor).
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen is focused on this game, not their big showdown against Oklahoma next week.
"It's a big Big 12 game," Holgorsen said. "It doesn't get any better than this, so we need to get out there, travel the right way and be ready for a hostile environment, and handle it the way we know we can if we want to continue to win to remain in the conversation. This is a huge hurdle.
"It's parity in college football, and you better have your stuff together every week or you're going to get beat. We won't look past this group, I can assure you that. I don't care what their record is."
The Cowboys, still seeking bowl eligibility for the 13th consecutive season, know they have another difficult task ahead.
"A lot of similarities to the game we just played," said OSU coach Mike Gundy of West Virginia. "We'll certainly have our hands full with these guys. We'll get some good plans together and go play hard Saturday afternoon."
Five things to watch on Saturday:
TOP RECEIVERS: There will be two top candidates for the Biletnikoff Award, honoring the nation's top receiver, playing in the game. Oklahoma State sophomore Tylan Wallace and West Virginia senior David Sills V were both named among the 11 semifinalists for the prestigious award this week. Wallace ranks third in the nation with 1,282 receiving yards on 68 receptions, along with nine touchdowns, while Sills has 49 receptions for 687 yards and 12 touchdowns, although he has played one fewer game. The award's three finalists will be announced Monday and the winner on Dec. 6.
CORN DOG RISING: Oklahoma State fifth-year senior quarterback Taylor Cornelius, who spent the previous two seasons as Mason Rudolph's primary backup, has progressed this season. He had a solid performance last week against Oklahoma, completed 34 of 53 passes for 501 yards and three touchdowns. He ranks sixth in the nation in passing yards, with 3,123. "He just keeps on getting better and better from experience," Gundy said. "He's paid his dues and he has worked hard and it's awesome for him that we were here to stick with him and believe in him. The guy is a competitor, he is tough."
PASS RUSH, Part 1: West Virginia junior linebacker David Long Jr. has enjoyed an outstanding season, helping the Mountaineers rank fourth in the nation in tackles for loss (8.6 per game). His individual total of 17.5 tackles for loss (1.9 per game) leads the Big 12 and is second in the country, while his eight sacks is tied for 19th overall. Long also tops West Virginia with 84 tackles overall (9.3 per game), good for fourth in the Big 12 and 34th in the nation. "He does the same thing every week," Holgorsen said. "He makes every play, and he affects every play."
PASS RUSH, Part 2: Oklahoma State has a pretty potent pass rush as well, piling up 36 sacks on the season, tied for third in the nation. The Cowboys' defense is led by junior defensive end Jordan Brailford, who is tied for seventh in the country with nine sacks and is 11th in tackles for loss with 15.5.
NO HOMECOMING: Holgorsen spent just the 2010 season at Oklahoma State as Gundy's offensive coordinator. After eight years at West Virginia, he doesn't really consider it much of a homecoming to return to Stillwater, where he is 1-2. "It was too long ago," said Holgorsen. "My one year in Stillwater was nine years ago in a hotel room. I don't remember a lot about it."