Here is everything you need to know about the Camping World Bowl in our West Virginia vs. Syracuse preview and prediction.
5:15 p.m. ET/4:15 p.m. CT, Friday, Dec. 28, 2018, Camping World Stadium, Orlando, FL
TV: ESPN (Dave Fleming, Rod Gilmore, Quint Kessenich)
Radio: WVU IMG Sports Network (Tony Caridi); Sirius/XM 84
Fun Fact: The two schools were charter members when the BIG EAST Conference began sponsoring football in 1991 and remained in the league until West Virginia left for the Big 12 in 2012. Syracuse joined the ACC the next year.
QB Eric Dungey
Dungey is 154 passing yards away from becoming the program’s all-time leader, surpassing Ryan Nassib. He’s one of just three FBS quarterbacks, along with Penn State’s Trace McSorely and UCF’s McKenzie Milton, with 8,000+ passing yards and 1,000+ rushing yards. His dual-threat ability has been key all season for the Orange, with 17 passing touchdowns and 15 rushing touchdowns.
DB Andre Cisco
Cisco has seven interceptions this season, which is tied for the most in the nation and is the most of any FBS freshman. He was the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year. Also, Cisco is tied for second in the ACC behind Virginia’s Bryce Hall (1.8) in passes defended at 1.5 per game. Cisco’s 18 passes defended (7 INT, 11 PBU) match Texas Tech’s Adrian Frye (5 INT, 13 PBU) for the national rookie lead.
West Virginia Mountaineers
QB Jack Allison
Allison is a Miami transfer who is expected to be the front runner to take over the job in 2019, but he gets to start a game early since Will Grier is skipping the bowl game to prepare for the NFL Draft. Allison only has 10 passing attempts on the season, and for his collegiate career. He was once was four-star prospect and the No. 8 pro-style prospect in the Class of 2016.
LB David Long Jr.
Long was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and is the only player in the FBS to rank in the top 30 in tackles for loss (No. 8), solo tackles (No. 8) and sacks (No. 29). The Second-Team All-American was the engine that helped the Mountaineers finish in the top half of the Big 12 in most major defensive categories, including scoring defense and total defense.
The Orange did a great job this season forcing turnovers. Syracuse led the ACC with 30 forced turnovers (which also ranked first in the nation), including 17 interceptions and 13 fumbles recovered. Their +14 in turnover margin was also tops in the ACC an fourth in the nation. Now they get to face a quarterback who hasn’t played a meaningful snap since high school, which was now three years ago for him (Allison). That should have the Orange licking their chops to try and throw Allison off his game early.
No Will Grier, WR Gary Jennings or LT Yodny Cajuste in this game changes the outlook for the Mountaineers. First off, Tony Gibson’s defense needs to have itself a helluva game against a potent Orange offense under Dino Babers and a veteran QB in Dungey. Notably, WVU needs to get stops on third downs. In two of Cuse’s losses to Notre Dame and Clemson, the Orange were a combined 9 of 33 on third downs. The good news is the Mountaineers were second-best in the Big 12 in opponent third down conversions. Offensively, Cuse has the 110th ranked passing defense, but I’m not sure how much WVU will be able to exploit it, considering how many pieces are missing. However, WVU fans should note that Syracuse will be without DE Alton Robinson, whose 10 sacks rank second in the ACC this season, and NT McKinley Williams for the game.
Syracuse 35, West Virginia 24
The Mountaineers are playing without arguably their three best players on an offense that was the best in the Big 12, this side of Oklahoma. Had those three played, my prediction might have been different because they’d be going up against a Cuse passing defense that ranked outside the top 100 in the NCAA this season. But asking Allison to be Will Grier for a day is a tall ask. The defense can only do so much when the offense is starting a young quarterback in Allison, who hasn’t played meaningful snaps since high school. Don’t be shocked if Dana Holgorsen works in freshman QB Trey Lowe, who has more dual-threat ability, which might work better considering the fact that the offensive line is missing its star offensive tackle and top receiver. But regardless, Syracuse had itself a great season with two of its three losses to teams in the College Football Playoff (Notre Dame, Clemson), and is a veteran team, with most of its top players participating in the game. Plus, bowl games are not Dana Holgorsen’s forte, as he’s just 1-4 in his last five as a head coach. I think that goes to 1-5 in his last six.
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