Taking a quick glance at next year's depth charts, a few young teams really stand out as mythical championship frontrunners in 2008 - Florida, Georgia, Southern Cal - but none prior to Wednesday night looked better stocked next year relative to its mostly great performance this year than Oklahoma. OU blog Crimson and Cream Machine called West Virginia's unmolested romp through the Oklahoma secondary - yes, that really was four Mountaineer touchdowns in seven snaps at the end of the third and start of the fourth quarters - "The Night the Sooners Died," and this is only hyperbole in the sense that Oklahoma should still be an outstanding program first-rate talent going forward. But as far as entering the offseason with a sort of "championship mandate" for next fall, and maintaining a reputation for sweltering defense and winning games at which they arrive with focus - the Miamis, Texases and Missouris, to use this year's high profile victims - the Sooners are suddenly rebuilding. Bob Stoops' teams have dominated the Big 12 but now also have lost four straight BCS games over five years, arguably (depending on your opinion of Boise State) performing terribly in all of them. They looked painfully slow on the offensive line and at every position on defense against the very non-blue chip Mountaineers, only one sign - repeated busted assignments, missed tackles and blown angles in the open field serving as the others - that a supposedly broken, exhausted team off a crippling loss to end the season, led by a mild-mannered, Coker-ish interim coach no one outside the state had ever heard of, was the vastly better prepared team.
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So the arrows dramatically flipped - talented Oklahoma, the team that can beat anybody, must answer for its consistent season-ending failures, inconsistency against mediocre opponents on the road and defensive failure against wide open offenses. West Virginia, the homely product of an innovative football mind and suspect schedule, returns its three all-world playmakers in the backfield and all five offensive linemen, demonstrated extreme competence in the passing game, in pressuring Sam Bradford into ineptitude and in thwarting OU's power running game, and did it under the brightest lights, against one of the toughest offensive lines and secondaries it could have faced anywhere. We knew this before, and it's still true with or without Rich Rodriguez: as long as Pat White is on the field, West Virginia can beat anyone.
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