Plenty Of Points Expected As Syracuse Faces West Virginia In Camping World Bowl

The middle of three college football games for Friday is expected to be one of the highest scoring as ACC entrant Syracuse takes on Big 12 member West Virginia. These are two of the best offenses at the FBS level—Syracuse finished the year tied for #16 in total offense (468.8 yards per game) while West Virginia was #8 (520.4). The teams were even closer in scoring offense—West Virginia ranks 9th (42.3 PPG) while Syracuse is 11th (40.8 PPG). West Virginia’s passing offense was one of the best in the country ranking #3 with 358.1 yards per game. Syracuse was ‘only’ #36 (261.5 YPG) but the Orange has the better rushing attack and thus the more balanced offense. The Orange ranked #30 in rushing offense (207.3 YPG) while West Virginia finished 75th (162.3).

The big storyline for this game is the status of West Virginia quarterback Will Grier. Grier was the offensive catalyst for the Mountaineers but on December 8 announced that he will skip the Camping World Bowl to prepare for the NFL Draft. Grier’s 2018 season numbers are impressive: 3,864 passing yards on 37 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. Since the announcement, he’s become the latest pseudo ‘controversy’ on sports talk radio. Depending on who you talk to he’s either evil incarnate and everything wrong with college sports or else he’s a smart guy making the best decision for himself and his family. Grier does have a wife and child so he’s not in the same boat as many other top level NFL prospects. He’s expected to go in the first or second round of the NFL draft so it’s obvious why he doesn’t want to risk what could be lifetime financial security to play in the Camping World Bowl.

Grier’s announcement also had significant implications for the NCAA football pointspread on this game. The game opened with West Virginia as a -7 point favorite but since it became known that Grier won’t play has moved a whopping -9 points making Syracuse a -2 point favorite. It’s easy to argue that no single player is worth nine points of line value but this move isn’t quite as cut and dried. West Virginia looked a bit overvalued here before Grier’s announcement. Maybe the pendulum has swung too far toward the Orange but at -2 you’d expect the outright winner to cover the game.

One beneficiary of Grier’s absence from this game is Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey. Dungey is a dual threat quarterback that leads an Orange offense putting 40.8 PPG on the board. He’s one of only three active quarterbacks with more than 8,000 yards passing in his college career and 1,000 yards rushing. In fact, he’s only 29 yards short of the 2,000 mark and will almost certainly eclipse it during this bowl game.

So what does West Virginia have in the way of backups to fill in for Grier? On paper, not much. Former Miami quarterback Jack Allison and freshman Trey Lowe are both expected to see action under center for the Mountaineers. The ‘glass half full’ scenario suggests that a strong performance by either could give them the inside track for next year’s starting gig. The more realistic ‘glass half empty’ scenario—Allison threw just 10 passes this season with six completions. Lowe has yet to take a snap in a college game.

West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen articulated the ‘glass half full’ scenario when he spoke of Allison’s in-practice progress during a post Christmas press conference:

“Guys change quickly when they get out of the backup mentality, the backup role. Guys change. I’ve been excited and encouraged to see what he’s been doing with the practice reps that he’s gotten over the last couple of weeks. He’s attacked it the right way, and I’ve been satisfied with that.”

Working in Allison’s favor are some seriously talented receivers. David Sills and Gary Jennings are big league talents but going from a franchise quarterback like Grier to an unproven option is just too much for West Virginia to pull off against a highly potent, well balanced Syracuse team.



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