MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- By now, it probably goes without saying that things haven't made a whole lot of sense lately at West Virginia.
The team that was supposed to settle the Big 12 Conference championship this season with Saturday's home game against No. 13 Oklahoma has instead lost four in a row and tumbled from the top five of the national polls to seventh place in the conference standings.
Each game in the longest losing streak since 2001, the Mountaineers (5-4, 2-4) have had trouble with a similar form of the same defense that plays soft pass coverage with a hard top.
Up next are the Sooners (7-2, 5-1), who happen to have the Big 12's best pass defense and are one of the most successful and most stubborn in the country.
That would probably qualify as bad news before the 7 p.m. kickoff at Mountaineer Field (WVAH telecast).
"We're kind of excited about it, actually," Coach Dana Holgorsen said.
"We haven't faced really anything different for quite some time. This will be a different style of defense."
Oklahoma is No. 2 nationally in pass efficiency defense and No. 8 in passing yards allowed per game (170.8).
The Sooners average one interception per game and have only allowed three passing touchdowns, which is second only to Boise State.
A week ago, the Sooners played Baylor, then the nation's top-ranked passing offense that was averaging 392 yards per game. The Sooners did what they do, forced 20 incomplete passes on 32 attempts and gave up just 172 yards.
Where Texas Tech, Kansas State, TCU and Oklahoma State relied mostly on zone defense, Oklahoma, ranked No. 12 in the BCS standings, plays man-to-man almost exclusively and simply trusts its players to defend the opposing players without incident.
"It's cat coverage - 'I got that cat, you've got that cat,' " Mountaineers offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said.
WVU quarterback Geno Smith was once the top cat in college football, completing better than 80 percent of his passes with 24 touchdowns and no interceptions in the 5-0 start. When the Mountaineers encountered the zone coverages and the defenses that dropped six or seven players back to handle that passing attack, his and WVU's fortunes changed.
He's completed 53.6, 63.6, 59.3 and finally against Oklahoma State 66.7 percent of his passes for seven touchdowns and three interceptions. The 364 passing yards against the Cowboys were his most since the school-record 656 against Baylor on Sept. 29. He hadn't topped 278 since.
"It's going to be fun getting a chance to go up against man," he said. "It really comes down to our guy beating theirs."
That's fine with Oklahoma, which structures its defense to have five or six defenders near the line of scrimmage and the rest defending the pass. Sometimes the Sooners are susceptible to the run, like they were last week when Baylor ran 51 times for 250 yards.