The Fizz is making its first bowl predictions since 2013. Here’s how the staff thinks today’s top 20 matchup in the Camping World Bowl will pan out.
Tyler Aki (10-2): Syracuse 33, West Virginia 17
For everyone anticipating an offensive shootout, you’re going to be let down. Yes, both of these teams have potent offenses, but both have a lot working against them today. By now, the obvious is known on the West Virginia side with NFL hopefuls Will Grier and Yodny Cajuste not playing in today’s game. But the other notable piece is that West Virginia is not a great running team. The Mountaineers rank 75th in the country in rushing at 162 yards per game. That’s within a yard of what the SU defense allows, but it won’t be enough to beat Syracuse with its predictability because the two quarterbacks WVU, Jack Allison and Trey Lowe, have thrown just 10 passes in their careers. For SU, there is the fact that they did not perform well offensively after the bye, especially at quarterback. Sure the final score saw a 40 spot on the scoreboard against UNC, but half of that came in the final 5 minutes of regulation and overtime with Tommy DeVito at the helm. For as great of a season that the Orange has had, that was a game Syracuse should have lost. Now SU is going to have to shake off about a month’s worth of rust to get ready for this game. The Orange’s heads will be in a much better place than West Virginia’s. Give me the team with the much higher motivation factor that is aiming for double digit wins for the first time since 2001.
JD Raucci (9-3): Syracuse 48, West Virginia 37
This was supposed to be a matchup of two of the most high-power, up-tempo offenses in the country. While we’re still likely going to get that, it probably won’t be on the level we thought it might. West Virginia will be without starting QB Will Grier and LT Yodny Cajuste and for an attack that ranked third in the country in passing offense, those are huge blows. Grier’s replacements, Jack Allison and Trey Lowe, have combined to throw just 10 passes all season (Allison threw all of them). Because of the missing pieces they’ll have on the offensive side of the ball, I’m just not quite sure that WVU is going to be able to keep up with SU’s dynamic offense. The Orange are locked and loaded on the offensive side (and can even play Abdul Adams and Trishton Jackson) and there may not be a more competitive player in the country than Eric Dungey. This is his last opportunity to leave his mark on the Syracuse program and one of his last chances to impress pro scouts. There’s no doubt in my mind that he is going to leave every last ounce of himself on the field in Orlando and SU is going to have success in making things difficult for the Mountaineers’ defense. The Orange opened as a 7-point underdog and are now a 2-point favorite. I like them to do even better than that and add an exclamation point to an already incredible season.
Tim Leonard (9-3): Syracuse 27 West Virginia 24
I can’t think of a more fitting way for this breakout season to end them with an Andre Szmyt game winning kick as time expires. We know regardless of the length, the Lou Groza award winner would make it. Whether it ends like that or not, Syracuse is clearly the team that wants this one more Friday. Not to mention, West Virginia is not only missing QB Will Grier but also their left tackle, which might be the second most important position on offense. It’s still going to be close because the Mountaineers have a great offense and their backup is nothing to sneeze at. However, at the end of the day, I just can’t visualize a world where Eric Dungey doesn’t play his heart out and end his college career with a memorable moment he and this SU team deserve
Jonathon Hoppe (9-3): Syracuse 45 – West Virginia 44
This game has the feel of a great one. Even though Will Grier won’t suit up for West Virginia, the Mountaineers have plenty of weapons on offense to cause some problems. A big reason for that is offensive lineman Yondy Cajuste and Colton McKivitz are two of the most highly-rated prospects in this year’s NFL Draft class. Whenever you’ve got two 300-pound studs at the tackle spot, your offense should be just fine. With that said, Syracuse has plenty of talent as well. What pushes them over the top in this one is team unity. This group has been relentless all year long and I expect that to continue on Friday, even if the game doesn’t technically mean much.
David Edelstein (5-2): Syracuse 45, West Virginia 35
The time is finally here. It’s the bowl game Syracuse has been waiting for. It has been a few weeks since SU last played, but rather than slowing down momentum form an excellent 2018 season, this break should have served to refresh the team. The Orange is coming into Orlando all cylinders ahead, led by dual-threat quarterback Eric Dungey who should show off both his passing and rushing skills in the game as usual. This is a Syracuse team that has proven a lot and now has one more test to go in one of the biggest spotlights. West Virginia might be ranked higher for the game, but quarterback Will Grier has decided not to play and receiver Gary Jennings is out with an injury. The Mountaineers have prided themselves on being able to fill in for starting players this season, but these two might be too much to replace.
Harrison Singer (2-1): Syracuse 41, West Virginia 35
As everyone can assume, the absence of Will Grier bodes well for Syracuse, who would’ve likely had to pay more attention to the senior quarterback than any other player on West Virginia. However, missing defensive linemen Alton Robinson and McKinley Williams will hurt no matter who’s under center for the Mountaineers. Personally, I liked Syracuse before Grier even opted to not play. The Orange is now favored heading in, and whether Grier was to play or not, it would have no effect on how SU’s offense fairs against WVU. With that said, Syracuse should have its way with West Virginia’s defense. The Mountaineers come from the Big 12, a conference where good defense is often scarce. WVU allows over 405 yards per game, which ranks 74th in the nation but 5th among the Big 12’s ten programs. All in all, Friday’s game has shootout potential, and I’ll say the Orange comes out on top. Book that tenth win for the first time since 2001.
Gill Gross: Syracuse 38, West Virginia 21
Let’s be real about West Virginia. This is a team that looked impressive in shootouts against really good teams like Texas and Oklahoma because they had one of the best quarterbacks in the country. Will Grier could flat out hang with anyone. But he’s sitting out Friday’s game to prepare for the NFL draft. The Mountaineers have relied on their passing game for 69% of their total offense. WVU backup QB Jack Allison is a redshirt sophomore who has thrown ten passes all season. He was a four-star recruit, but it’s safe to say Allison can’t come close to matching Grier’s production. Meanwhile, Eric Dungey gets to leave it all on the field in what will probably be his last competitive football game. Expect wild reckless Dungey to make a few appearances on Friday. He’s going to ball out. Dino Babers is going to dial up some creativity, and the Orange will look like the same offense that averaged 40 points per game over the season. With Will Grier on the field, West Virginia could’ve participated in the scoring. Without him, I don’t see how SU doesn’t run away with this.
Thomas Shults (2-0): Syracuse 45, West Virginia 24
Before word got out that DE Alton Robinson and DT McKinley Williams would miss The Camping World Bowl, this was an easy prediction. West Virginia is missing star quarterback Will Grier and left tackle Yodny Cajuste who are preparing for the NFL draft. The Mountaineers will also be without their best wide receiver, Gary Jennings who is recovering from an ankle injury. Generally, for backup quarterbacks to succeed, they need good protection, and a wide receiver group they can rely on. WVU backup Jack Allison will have neither of those in this game. Meanwhile, Eric Dungey and his friends on offense are all playing for the Orange. Even without SU’s top sack leader, expect Syracuse to roll.