AccuScore has run more than 10,000 simulations for every bowl game for Yahoo! Sports, calculating how each team's performance changes in response to game conditions, opponent's abilities, roster moves, weather and more. Each game is simulated one play at a time and the game is replayed a minimum of 10,000 times to generate forecasted winning percentages, player statistics and a variety of game-changing scenarios. Here's AccuScore.com's analysis of the Fiesta Bowl.
Baseline: Oklahoma 68%, West Virginia 32%; Score: Oklahoma 36, West Virginia 28
While Oklahoma and West Virginia are both settling for the Fiesta Bowl, the Sooners are very pleased to find the Mountaineers are their opponent. Eager to erase the memory of last year’s Fiesta Bowl, Bob Stoops and company find themselves winning 68 percent of AccuScore simulations. The eight point average margin of victory is keyed by Sam Bradford who is projected to throw for 280 yards and two touchdowns. The Sooners running game will keep the Mountaineer defense honest with Allen Patrick, Chris Brown and company adding over 200 yards on the ground.
During the Stoops era, the best way to beat Oklahoma is through the air. Enter the West Virginia and their run first offense. Pat White leads the Mountaineers and should account for close to 250 total yards. White will need Steve Slaton to hold onto the ball and Noel Devine to return to early season form to reach the 108 yards we forecast for the duo. While the offense will need to be creative, AccuScore predicts a big game from the defense with 2.4 sacks and 1.7 turnovers.
Just How Valuable are Pat White and Sam Bradford to their Teams?
Had White not been hurt against Pittsburgh and Bradford not sustained a concussion versus Texas Tech, West Virginia and Oklahoma might be playing this game in New Orleans. But in the year of "what might have been," the Fiesta Bowl matches up two teams who rely greatly on their starting quarterback.
The won/loss column is the best indicator of what White and Bradford mean to their team, with both the Mountaineers and Sooners looking out of sync without their starters. AccuScore was able to measure their respective value by simulating the game without White and Bradford.
In simulations, West Virginia’s winning percentage declined by 12 percentage points without White. Oklahoma’s winning percentage declined by 9 percentage points without Bradford.
Should West Virginia "Air It Out"?
West Virginia’s strength is their running game, but the Sooners have shown tremendous ability to stop the run and it reflects in the AccuScore simulations. Seeing how Colorado and Texas Tech picked apart Oklahoma’s secondary, we posed the question, "Should West Virginia abandon their typical game plan and balance the offense?"
When West Virginia had a 50/50 run to pass ratio, their winning percentage improved from 38 to 40 percent. While a two percent increase might not seem like a lot, it got playmaker Darius Reynaud more involved. Reynaud’s baseline forecast is 4.5 receptions, 45 yards and 0.5 receiving touchdowns. However, this alternative scenario increased Reynaud’s averages to 7 receptions, 75 yards and 0.7 TDs.
Malcolm Kelly Makes an Impact at WR
Malcolm Kelly is not only the Sooners best wide receiver, but he is the key to Oklahoma’s aerial attack. A projected first round pick as a junior, Kelly is second on the team in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. While he does not lead the team in these categories, his presence on the field demands double coverage and opens up the passing game for Juaquin Iglesias, Manual Johnson, Jermaine Gresham and Joe Jon Finely.
AccuScore simulated the game without Kelly and dropped the Sooners win probability drop from 68 to 65 percent. Under these scenarios, the Oklahoma receivers would get tighter coverage; specifically Gresham (touchdown reception leader) would see a decrease in receptions and receiving yards.
For more information, visit www.accuscore.com.