The No. 16 West Virginia Mountaineers (8-3) have had a few weeks off after a disappointing end to the season and will wrap things up with a Camping World Bowl showdown against the No. 20 Syracuse Orange (9-3).
West Virginia will be without three all Big 12 offensive players, including projected NFL first rounder Will Grier, who are all sitting out for draft preparation. This will be a great chance for some young guys like quarterbacks Jack Allison and Trey Lowe to get some minutes before next year.
This game has a bit of meaning for both teams, as the two former Big East schools renew a longtime rivalry. It’s one that has left a bitter taste in the mouths of WVU fans since the last meeting, which the Orange won 38-14 six years ago.
The Ben Schwartzwalder Trophy, the trophy that has traditionally gone to the winner of this matchup, will not be on the line, but the tension between these two former conference rivals will remain the same.
The Syracuse Orange have had one of their better years in program history. Two losses to playoff teams and a Pitt loss is what held this team back. The quarterback is Eric Dungey, who despite his rough numbers, is a very solid quarterback.
The rush game has four players with 300+ yards and that’s where Syracuse really shines.
The Orange run the ball for about five yards each carry, and running back Moe Neal also has complied over 900 scrimmage yards on the year. Eric Dungey is the team’s leading rusher, and the quarterback is the textbook definition of a dual threat QB. Jamal Custis and Shaun Riley are the two leading receivers and both make plays on the offensive end.
Defensively is where this team struggles, as the Orange rank in the bottom half of the country in almost all categories, aside for turnovers – Syracuse creates 2.5 turnovers a game, which is third in the country. The Orange can end possessions in an instant with clutch turnovers. The Mountaineers need to play mistake-free football in that department.
Ryan Guthrie is the leading tackler on the Orange with 101 total tackles, and Andre Cisco has compiled seven interceptions on the year.
The Mountaineers were nationally ranked all season and got up to number six in the country at one point. West Virginia was even one of the last few teams in playoff contention before back-to-back losses against Oklahoma State and Oklahoma.
The reason for their success was the success of seniors Will Grier, David Sills, and Gary Jennings on the offensive side of the ball. The Mountaineers will be without Grier and Jennings in this game, however. The quarterback duties will likely be split between Jack Allison and redshirt freshman Trey Lowe. .
Lowe has not attempted a pass this season, but Allison has thrown ten passes on the year for 75 yards and a touchdown. The run game that was also very productive for West Virginia this season will have a full cast of characters. Kennedy McKoy and Martell Pettaway will see a lot of action.
In addition, Marcus Simms and David Sills are two regulars that will have the task of making both quarterbacks lives easier. The offensive line is still strong but will be without NFL prospect Yodny Cajuste.
The Mountaineer defense struggled at the end of the year, giving up 45 and 59 points in the seasons last two games, but played pretty well heading up to that point. The defensive line lead by senior Kenny Bigelow is really good.
The Mountaineers defense create plenty of tackles for loss and the major reason why is David Long. He is one of the countries best linebackers and lives in opponents backfields. The defense has the ability to be good, but we have yet to see them shut down a elite offense.
Keys To The Game For West Virginia
West Virginia’s Quarterback Play – The Mountaineers will have to take the field without NFL prospect Will Grier under center for the first time this year. It’ll be both Jack Alison and Trey Lowe splitting QB duty and both have never gotten major minutes at the college level. How both of them play will go a long way to determine if the WVU offense can be as electric as it was in the regular season.
Defensive Return To Early Season Form -Syracuse has a under the radar offense that can put up points in a blast. The Mountaineer defense hasn’t yet shut down any big time offenses, this is a great opportunity to finally accomplish that.
Play With Pride -The Camping World Bowl is the last place the Mountaineers wanted to be after a 8-1 start, and now with no Grier, Jennings, and Cajuste it’s hard to look forward to this game but WVU must do so if they want to come away victorious.
The Mountaineers will be without Grier, Jennings, and Cajuste and might not have the offensive firepower to keep up with a healthy Syracuse squad. This game also means a lot more to Syracuse than it does to West Virginia and that could end up biting the Mountaineers in the back. 41-31 Orange.