West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Syracuse Orange
The West Virginia Mountaineers travel to the Carrier Dome to tangle with the Syracuse Orange Friday night. The Mountaineers are coming in off a bye but defeated Connecticut 43-16 in week six while the Orange picked up a 38-35 road win over Tulane also in week six. The Mountaineers are -14 favorites over the Orange with an over/under point total set at 51.
West Virginia might be slowly coming around as the team continues to win but also tends to start slow. Both trends were alive and well against Connecticut as the Mountaineers led the Huskies 10-9 heading in to the break before exploding in a 33-7 second half to win easily. The WVU attack piled up 541 yards and were a respectable 7 of 15 on third down but the one area where West Virginia needed to improve was on the ground where the rushing attack produced just 72 yards on 29 carries for less than three yards per carry. Dustin Garrison led the rushing game with 80 yards on 18 carries with a touchdown but played second fiddle to Geno Smith and the air game. Smith went 27 of 45 for 450 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions with nine players catching the ball. Stedman Bailey was the top target in the air with seven catches for 178 yards and a pair of scores while Ivan McCartney (6-131) was right on his heels. The defense was a force for 60 minutes after giving up only 275 yards and limiting Connecticut to 4 of 16 on third down.
Through six games this season Syracuse has been the king of close games with five games decided by just a single score and three games decided in overtime. The victory over Tulane didn’t go to overtime but was another close one with the offense overcoming poor first half and a few big plays by the Green Wave. It still wasn’t a big day yardage wise for the Orange who totaled just 356 yards. The game boiled down to an almost monotonous rushing attack by Syracuse that totaled 170 yards but averaged just four yards per tote. Antwon Bailey was the offensive star with 11 yards on 24 carries and a touchdown while catching four balls for 34 yards. Quarterback Ryan Nassib had been one of the more accurate passers in the game but was just 19 of 31 for 186 yards and two touchdowns against no interceptions in a short, controlled passing attack. Syracuse did get quite a bit of mileage from an average offensive day which was needed with the defense allowing 471 yards and giving up a 58 yard TD pass and a 60 yard scoring pass with under three minutes left.
West Virginia might be the best team in the Big East which might not be such a big endorsement with Pittsburgh looking bad and South Florida looking ordinary but this team has the ability to move the ball and score with a solid defense to control the scoreboard. Syracuse is tough to nail down as they don’t have an offense that is consistent and a defense that has been suspect as well. Right now I’m taking West Virginia and hoping they play for 60 minutes
West Virginia Mountaineers -14 Syracuse Orange