West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Syracuse Orange
Date and Time: Friday, December 28, 2018, 5:15 p.m. ET
Location: Camping World Stadium, Orlando, FL
Opening CFB Odds: West Virginia -7, 74
West Virginia vs. Syracuse TV Coverage: ESPN
By all accounts, this has been a tremendous season for the Orange who are a ranked team at 9-3 with losses two of those losses coming against Clemson and Notre Dame. That was not the expectation coming into the year, but the Syracuse offense has been amazing while the defense has been good enough more times than not.
Defense is where Syracuse is vulnerable, and this game looked like it was going to be a shootout of two strong offenses. It could still be that, but that’ll be much harder now as the Mountaineers will be without their quarterback in Will Grier or top receiver in Gary Jennings. That should make things a bit easier for the Syracuse defense.
Offensively, the Orange are an elite team, ranking in the top-10 in points per game and sitting at No.15 in total yards per game. This team cans move the ball in the air and on the ground almost equally well. Eric Dungey is a star under center.
Dungey has a 59.8-percent completion percentage with 17 touchdowns to seven interceptions while throwing for 2,565 yards. That’s some quality work through the air, but he’s a duel threat, making things happen with his legs to the tune of 732 yards and 15 scores. Moe Neal is the only player with more rushing yards on the team though there are four players with at least 300 yards rushing and six scores on the ground. In the air, there are four receivers with at least 30 catches, 500 yards and three scores.
Back to the Mountaineers, they’re going to be competing without their quarterback and top receiver, leaving Jack Allison to lead the team under center. He’ll still have plenty of weapons—of course. Kennedy McKoy, Martell Pettaway and Leddie Brown are still a formidable trio in the backfield, all rushing for at least five yards a carry and combining for 17 touchdowns.
On defense, this team is average—at best—and have their best player here also not in the game.
Most stats would indicate a high scoring affair in this one, but the key stat may be the six completions by Allison on the year.
The sophomore backup under center is 6-for-10 on throws for 75 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The key to this entire game is how well Allison can take over the offense and keep things rolling. For now, it’s a major question. How much of the Mountaineers’ success offensively this year was a result of Grier and how much is based on the system, blocking and ability of the receivers to get open? We’re about to find out.
Matchup To Watch
Without Grier, the battle between the West Virginia passing attack and a poor Syracuse pass defense will be crucial to the game’s outcome.
Allison bring just 10 in-game throws in 2018 to the table in the game leaving him as a bit of an unknown. He’ll have players around him to help, but the team’s also without Jennings who led the team in receiving yards with 917 and was second in receiving touchdowns with 13. David Sills V is now the team’s leading receiver while Marcus Simms, Trevon Wesco and T.J. Simmons are other quality options.
The run game is mostly intact and will provide some support, but it’s the passing attack that ranked No.3 in yards per game at 358.1. That’ll take a step back in Orlando which is a shame considering how bad the Orange have been against the pass. This is a team that typically wins shootouts thanks to its offense. The Syracuse defense isn’t good, and the pass defense is the reason why.
The Orange ranks No.113 against the pass.
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With Grier, Jennings and tackle YodnyCajuste out for the Mountaineers, the spread has swung wildly since it opened and for good reason. The Mountaineer offense will still score with Allison behind center. There’s enough talent on the roster to still have a good showing, but there is a drop off there. Cajuste is, of course, a meaningful loss as well.
In the end, expect a shootout with Allison at least keeping West Virginia relevant, but the personnel switch has certainly changed the dynamic quite considerably.
For Syracuse, this has been a fairytale season. The team’s wildly exceeded expectations and a bowl win would be the perfect capper to that.
Look for Dungey to lead Syracuse to victory on Friday. The senior QB is too dynamic of a player for the Mountaineers defense which had is struggles even when its star left tackle was on the field.
CFB ATS Betting Pick: Syracuse -1.5 & Over 66.5 at BookMaker.eu
CFB Score Prediction: Orange 38 – Mountaineers 33
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