Saturday morning gave us news we all had a pretty strong inkling about, but just needed a little confirmation for:
BREAKING: West Virginia QB Will Grier will not play vs. #Syracuse in the Camping World Bowl. He’s third in the nation in passing yards/game (351.3) and TD (37).
— Orange Fizz (@OrangeFizz) December 8, 2018
All season long, Grier had been touted as one of the best quarterbacks in the country and was a big part of the Heisman discussion for most of the year. He put up ridiculous numbers in one of the best and most high-powered offenses in the country and got a lot of the credit for the success of the Mountaineers’ attack.
In most games, he was the best player on the field and that probably would have been the case in the Camping World Bowl as well. His decision to not play in the game should have a pretty big impact on not only the outcome of the contest, but a few other significant factors as well. Here are the three big ones.
What is Vegas Saying?
In the final College Football Playoff rankings before bowl season, SU checked in at #20 in the country while WVU was slotted four spots ahead of them at #16. Naturally, Vegas opened the line in favor of the higher ranked team on a neutral site and set the Mountaineers as a 7-point favorite. That number then climbed as high as 7.5 later in the night, but since then has seen a sudden decrease over the past two days.
Syracuse was about a 6.5-point underdog at the beginning of the day yesterday and then WVU starting left tackle Yodny Cajuste announced he would not be playing in the bowl game. The line shrunk accordingly to WVU -4. Now that Grier has announced his intentions to skip the game and focus on the NFL Draft, that line has dwindled all the way down to WVU -2.5. That’s not to mention that the over/under has decreased a whole touchdown from a peak of 76 to its current spot of 70.
With an offense’s two most important positions (LT/QB) absent from the game for the Mountaineers, Vegas all of a sudden sees this matchup as a lot closer and lower scoring than it was at first glance. Good for you if you laid on the Orange at the beginning of the week, because now the Mountaineers look like a lot more enticing bet.
A Matchup of High-Powered Offenses Disappears?
A couple of things really excited people when this SU-WVU matchup was announced on Sunday. Not only did the showdown reignite a really fierce old Big East rivalry, but it was also set to pit two of the top offenses in the country against each other. The Mountaineers check in at #8 in the country in total offense at over 520 yards per game while the Orange check in at #18 with nearly 470 yards a pop. In terms of scoring, WVU is ranked ninth with 42.3 ppg and SU is twelfth at 40.8 points per contest.
These teams almost seem like mirror images of each other in terms of statistics until you take a look at the balance of the two offenses. Syracuse sits at 36th in the country in passing and 31st in rushing with one of the more balanced attacks in the nation. On the other hand, West Virginia represents one of the most unbalanced at 3rd in passing and 75th in rushing.
The Mountaineers are hugely reliant on their ability to pass the ball and the effectiveness of that facet would go down for any team when they bring in a backup, but it’ll be especially difficult for WVU to keep up the pace. Grier is third in the country in passing TDs, fourth in yards per pass attempt and fifth in passing yards and passing efficiency. Meanwhile, backup Jack Allison has only attempted 10 passes the entire season. Grier is the key cog in WVU’s offense and without him running the show, the Mountaineers could look a little lost in Orlando, robbing us of the high-powered matchup we had expected.
Dungey Gets the Spotlight
Grier is expected to be a pretty high-level pick in April’s NFL Draft with some thinking he has the potential to be a first-rounder. The same can’t be said for SU quarterback Eric Dungey. Dino Babers has said multiple times that he thinks Dungey is going to play at the next level, but most experts don’t exactly agree. He’s going to have to be a guy that blows scouts away in the draft process at pro days and things of that sort and that starts in Orlando.
With the allure and superstardom of Grier out of the way, Dungey will likely be the best, most impressive and most intriguing player for scouts to watch at the Camping World Bowl. He won’t have to be operating in the shadow of Grier and can really go ahead and show out. He’ll have the chance to compete against a relatively weak defense (74th in total D) and put up some eye-popping numbers. Without Grier there to steal the spotlight, all eyes will be on Eric Dungey on December 28th, now it’s just a matter of how well he seizes the opportunity.