Last Updated: 2018-12-15
Let’s have a Big East throwback party in Orlando! The Camping World Bowl on December 28 will bring the Syracuse Orange and the West Virginia Mountaineers together for one night only in a game projected to have lots and lots of points. West Virginia is favored by a touchdown in the Camping World Bowl at Camping World Stadium in a battle that will put Will “Camping World” Grier up against Eric “Camping World” Dungey in a battle of epic Camping World proportions.
The total for this game is 75, which is the average age of the citizenry of the state of Florida, so that seems only fitting. In all seriousness, this is one of the most compelling bowl games prior to the College Football Playoff semifinals. A battle between Grier and Dungey and Dino and Dana seems like a really good time and some appointment television.
Syracuse and West Virginia have both been good to bettors this season. Syracuse is 8-4 ATS and West Virginia is 7-4 ATS. It is always good for the bankroll when two high-scoring teams also like to cover numbers.
These two teams have not played since 2012 when they went their separate ways. West Virginia joined the Big 12 and Syracuse joined the ACC a year later when Big East Football dissolved. Syracuse is riding a three-game winning streak over WVU, but the names and faces have changed a great deal in that time.
West Virginia lost its game against NC State to yet another hurricane on the East Coast in September, otherwise we could be talking about a bigger bowl game for the Mountaineers. Syracuse has a chance at 10 wins for the first time since 2001. This is a huge turnaround for Dino Babers, who inherited a 4-8 team, went 4-8 the first two seasons, and now has a shot at 10 wins.
A lot of the pregame hype will be on Will Grier and deservedly so. Justin Herbert and Dwayne Haskins really emerged as the top two quarterback in this year’s draft class, but Grier will certainly want to put his name in that discussion. Grier had a 37/8 TD/INT ratio with a 67 percent completion rate. It didn’t hurt to have two outstanding wide receivers in Gary Jennings Jr. and David Sills V, who combined to snag 28 of the team’s 38 passing touchdowns, but Grier will leave West Virginia as the third-leading passer in program history with just two years in Morgantown.
The Mountaineers offense was just as potent as it was supposed to be. West Virginia was sixth in yards per play, with a big increase from 6.3 to 7.2 from 2017 to 2018. The ground game was more effective as well, which was a concern after 1,000-yard rusher Justin Crawford left for the NFL. Kennedy McKoy took over and had 5.7 yards per pop and Martell Pettaway had six yards per pop on his 94 attempts. This is the last hurrah for the Grier-Jennings-Sills trio, so you can bet that Holgorsen, who allegedly showed interest in the Texas Tech job, will let them air it out.
It has no bearing on this game, but you have to wonder if Holgo was looking for an exit strategy with his three top meal tickets going to the NFL. Maybe that says something about West Virginia for next year.
The Mountaineers had a pretty good run defense in the regular season, as opponents managed just 4.1 yards per carry. That was the best mark in three years for the WVU front. The secondary had 13 interceptions, which helped to obscure how poorly the secondary played when the team wasn’t generating picks. Opponents completed 63 percent of their passes, which ranked 103rd and Big 12 foes had eight yards per pass attempt. The secondary got worse in November when the schedule levered up, as WVU allowed 322 yards per game, allowed a 12/3 ratio, and a 163.6 opponents’ passer rating. The defense is definitely going to get spread out by Syracuse, so we’ll have to see how they plan.
Crash Test Dummy Eric Dungey has taken a lot of abuse in his four years as the starter for Syracuse. In the last three years, he has been with Babers and has 1,073 pass attempts and 435 rushing attempts. He’s been a highly effective player and has accounted for 32 total touchdowns this season against just seven picks. He should be as healthy as ever with more than four weeks to get ready for this game, so the senior can let it all hang out. We may see Babers give a nod to Dontae Strickland here over Moe Neal, as Strickland is a senior and Neal has one more year of eligibility left. Neal has been the more effective runner with 5.6 yards per carry, but Strickland had 20 carries for 129 yards in his last game against Boston College.
Syracuse was third in the country in offensive plays behind only Ohio State and East Carolina. The Orange weren’t the most efficient offense, but they pushed the tempo a ton. That will be the case again here. West Virginia, meanwhile, was 107th in plays, but some of that had to do with how many big plays they had. The Mountaineers were just outside the top 50 in tempo.
That means this Syracuse defense will be under heavy duress as well. Syracuse actually played stunningly well against the pass. The Orange gave up some big plays, but had 17 interceptions and held opponents to a 55.5 percent completion percentage. Only Iowa, Maryland, Utah State, and Boston College had more interceptions. Syracuse was 69th in yards per carry allowed, which isn’t nice, but represented a nice upgrade from allowing over five yards per carry in each of the last two seasons.
Camping World Bowl Free Pick: Syracuse +7
These offenses should both put up some points. Is it fair to say that the Syracuse defense might be better than the West Virginia defense? It’s possible. This is also the first bowl for Syracuse since the 2013 Texas Bowl. West Virginia goes bowling every year and has not shown well the last two years against Utah in the Heart of Dallas Bowl and against Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Syracuse may have a momentum edge here, with the exception of the three seniors on offense for WVU looking to upgrade their draft stock.
This looks like a closer game than the line would indicate and a coaching nod could very well go to Syracuse, even though Babers only has one bowl game under his belt as a head coach.
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