MORGANTOWN - Of all the programs that West Virginia (5-4, 2-4 Big 12) was slated to meet during its inaugural season in the Big 12, the one that the Mountaineers had the longest history against will be the same Oklahoma squad that will invade Milan Puskar Stadium at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
However, this No. 12 Sooners (7-5, 5-1 Big 12) team is far different from the one WVU defeated (48-28) to capture the Fiesta Bowl championship in 2008.
"Oklahoma is going to be a tremendous challenge," Mountaineer head coach Dana Holgorsen said. "They are a storied program that is extremely well coached.
"They have great players, and they develop them well, they recruit well, it is a very structured program. We are talking about a place that has won seven national championships and seven Big 12 championships so they are used to winning."
Until its recent four-game losing streak, it was Holgorsen and his Mountaineers that were the media darling to take home the top prize in the Big 12 as well as play for a national title. Those accolades have faded, however, much like those of senior quarterback Geno Smith and the Heisman Trophy.
"It's not a lot of fun for anybody," continued Holgorsen. "The only way to get out of it is to work hard so that is what our coaching staff is doing.
Big 12 Matchup
No. 13 Oklahoma
(7-2, 5-1 Big 12)
at West Virginia (5-4, 2-4),
Game time: 7 p.m. TV: FOX
Line: Oklahoma by 11.
Series Record: Tied 2-2.
"We understand what the challenges are, and we are realistic with them and recruiting hard, and we are managing the team hard. There is only one to get on track, and there is only one way that you can win in college football.
"I don't care what conference you are in. The only way you win is by hard work. We are going to work hard."
The biggest challenge facing the old gold and blue will be stopping a Sooners offense that has seemingly found its stride again after dropping a 30-13 decision to No. 5 Notre Dame.
"The first thing we talk about, in our scouting report, is that we have three games remaining," said OU head coach Bob Stoops. "We can beat anyone, and anyone can beat us.
"What matters now is West Virginia. We have our scouting report, what does it take to beat these guys?"
Lately, the formula has been to throw early and often against a West Virginia secondary that is surrendering 345.2 yards per game and apply as much pressure as possible on Smith.
"A lot of the same formations, of the same plays," Stoops said. "There's a great deal of similarities. Tremendous speed and explosive offense. I don't much care what papers and media say.
"You really respect the ability of the team. We must have good fundamentals, good structure defensively, some pressure, good coverage and getting some interceptions.
"A little bit of all of that. Good discipline overall defensively."
West Virginia has played better offensively in losses to TCU and Oklahoma State, but mistakes on defense continued to rise up at inopportune times and special teams woes contributed greatly to the team's last two setbacks.
"It's coaching, and we have to coach it," said Holgorsen. "What is sad about the special teams' situation is that obviously it was embarrassing.
"It was embarrassing last week, and I sat here a week and a half ago after TCU, and I thought we played really well on special teams other that the execution of our snap and the execution of our kick whether it was a kick or a punt.
"We worked hard on that all week, and if you look at the execution of our snap and our kick, we were really good. Our snap and our punt, we were excellent. (Tyler) Bitancurt responded and probably had his best day that he has ever had here."
In the 55-34 loss to the Cowboys, however, it was the handling of the punts and kickoffs that proved to be the Mountaineers' downfall.
"We went out Sunday night, and we worked on fielding punts. We worked on the "Peter Call" where Tavon (Austin) does this and everybody runs away from the ball.
"The kickoff return when Quinn (Sharp), who is special, put some stuff on the ball, we had to make a decision, whether we field it or we make a decision to get out of the way and let someone else field it."
Lessons, that if learned, will give WVU a better chance of knocking off the Sooners.