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WEST VIRGINIA vs. SYRACUSE
Saturday, Dec. 29, 4:00 pm
This is the first bowl game in the series between old Big East and regional rivals. The Mountaineers had dominated the Orange before Syracuse won the last two meetings, recording sizable upsets in 2010 and 2011. This appearance must be looked at in consideration of very different attitudes of the teams involved. West Virginia and QB Geno Smith were looking like BCS Championship & Heisman candidates, respectively, after breaking from the gate 5-0. Then a 5-game losing streak left West Virginia scrambling for enough wins just to qualify for a seat in the bowl version of musical chairs. Smith had an impressive year, despite the mid-season losing run. The prolific Smith’s favorite targets were Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin who made WVU roll most of the time. While Smith and the offense held up their end, the WV defense did not. With just 6 returning starters and only a
sprinkling of seniors in its two-deep, the defense stunk. The WVU secondary was ripped repeatedly. Syracuse has weapons that might hurt that West Virginia defense in recordsetting sr. QB Ryan Nassib, WR Alec Lemon and sr. WR Marcus Sales. Orange
RBs Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley. The Orange OL was pretty damn good despite not having the services of left tackle Justin Pugh (best in the Big East at the position) for the first 4 games while he recovered from shoulder surgery. .
It is no surprise that the Mountaineers would finish in this spot after their 5-0 start but they now have to be completely discouraged as the public and media basically named Geno Smith the Heisman winner and had them in a BCS bowl. Playing on the grass of Yankee Stadium, in the possible cold and windy late-December New York conditions, must favor the “local” team that’s got a better defense and much more productive running game and familiarity with the surroundings and ability to rise to the level of the competition are additional edges. All Syracuse does is play solid, basic football and did so again this year, especially down the stretch. I have Syracuse winning this game by more than a field goal and since they are getting ponts this makes them a Money Line Dog. So its all about Syracuse and will determine how strong as we get closer to the game. Ohio came thru as a money line dog yesterday so lets roll with it again. A very solid play for today.