MORGANTOWN-In West Virginia's first three losses of the season-Texas Tech, Kansas State and TCU-junior wide receiver Stedman Bailey was a non-factor.
The numbers support that notion.
Against the Red Raiders, the Florida-native was limited to six catches for 56 yards in a 49-14 loss. More importantly, the 'other half' of the Mountaineers' pass-catching duo with senior Tavon Austin, suffered a sprained ankle in the first 30 minutes of action and did not play in the second half.
That injury, combined with the defensive play of the Wildcats and Horned Frogs, resulted in only four catches for 30 yards in a 55-14 loss to KSU and two receptions for 30 yards in WVU's 39-38 double-overtime loss to TCU.
An apparent healthier Bailey took to the field against OSU last weekend and responded with his best game of the year-14 catches for 225 yards. But West Virginia's losing skid continued with a 55-34 setback to the Cowboys.
"It (the sprained ankle) affects you a lot," said Bailey. "Me specifically, because I'm a wide receiver, my job is to run around the field. I have to run down the field, and just about everything I need to do involves needing my ankle to be at full strength, so I can be at 100 percent."
The Mountaineers will need a completely healthy Bailey if they are to break their first four-game losing streak since the 2001 campaign against an Oklahoma defense which leads the Big 12 in pass defense efficiency (92.7) and pass defense (170.2 ypg) and and ranks No. 24 nationally in scoring defense (19.6 ppg).
"It's a good opportunity for our wide outs to have some one-on-one matchups, and it's up to me to put the ball in the right spot," said senior quarterback Geno Smith. "It's a good opportunity for us, and I'm looking forward to it."
Especially with a healthy Bailey.
"The whole difference was my ankle for the most part," continued the junior receiver. "It felt pretty good last weekend, and I was just able to come out and make big plays. I wanted to get back to my old ways, being the playmaker that I am and doing all I can do to help the offense progress.
"Last week, my ankle was a lot better and it showed on the field."
West Virginia will need all of its weapons if it hopes to beat a Sooners team that has outscored its last five Big 12 opponents by a combined 233-102 margin and was the preseason pick to capture the Big 12 crown.
"Everything starts with their quarterback, Landry Jones, it seems like he has been there for six years," said WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen. "I remember him in high school, and he came out of New Mexico. He came to our camp, and he is a very talented, big kid with a great arm and is a winner."
Like Smith, Jones has a bevy of talented pass catchers to throw the football to as well.
Tops among that unit is Kenny Stills, who has 54 catches for 682 yards and six touchdowns. But also look for Justin Brown (41-537, 4 TDs), Jalen Saunders (29-373) and Sterling Shepard (28-387, 3 TDs) to see plenty of passes head in their directions.
"This is probably one of the most talented groups of receivers we have faced all year and possibly in the country," said Holgorsen. "They have tremendous depth and some capable running backs."
Numbers that WVU's trio of seniors Tavon Austin (96-968, 11 TDs) and J.D. Woods (45-467, 3 TDs) and Bailey (75-1,055, 16 TDs) can match if Smith has the time to hook up with them on a regular basis.
NOTES: * The game will be shown on Fox with Craig Bolerjack providing the play-by-play, Joel Klatt the analysis and Petros Papadakis roaming the sidelines.
* This marks the fifth meeting between the schools. Both have won two of the previous contests with OU winning by scores of 47-14 (1958) and 52-10 (1978) while WVU traveled to Norman in 1982 and recorded its first win by a score of 41-27 then evened the series with a 48-28 win in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl.
* OU leads the Big 12 and ranks eighth in the nation in pass defense (170.2 ypg) and holds the No. 24 scoring defense (19.6) in the country.
* WVU ranks fifth in the nation in passing (347.6 ypg) and 11th in scoring offense (40.0 ppg).
* OU leads the Big 12 in pass defense efficiency (92.7) and opponents' first downs (17.3 per game).
* The Mountaineers have won four of their last five games against ranked opponents including then-No. 25 Baylor and then-No. 11 Texas.
* Geno Smith's name can be found throughout the NCAA's active career leaders for quarterbacks. The senior ranks third in passing touchdowns (87), fourth in attempts (1,347), completions (904), yards (10,498), completion percentage (67.11) and touchdowns responsible for (91), fifth in total offense (10,722) and sixth in passing efficiency (151.22).
* Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey can also be found among the NCAA's active career leaders. Austin leads the nation in catches (270), while Bailey is the career receiving touchdown leader (32).