It what will be the 60th meeting between two teams, who have a storied rivalry since after WWII, The Mountaineers and Orangemen know a little bit about each other but will ave to continue their rivalries in the bowl season. WVU is now in the Big Twelve and ‘Cuse is headed to the ACC next year leading the series 32-27 and the slimmest of margins for average scores in games between the two 20.14 to 19.53. Both have endured up and down seasons but are looking forward to this go around.
These two teams have played for the Scwartzwalder Trophy since 1993 but this time around they are playing for the Steinbrenner Trophy. Syracuse leads the all-time series and has stolen two games away from the Mountaineers in their last two meeting. They will have to be on their A-game because they’ll be facing one of the best QB’s in college football this season in Geno Smith. The ‘Cuse upset #11 Louisville and went on to beat Mizzou and Temple to finish the season and take a share of the Big East with them as they leave.
Playmakers: Offensively this is a tie because QB Ryan Nassib and WR Alec Lemon have practically been the corsican brothers. The singal caller has set a new career passing mark for the Orange in his senior season having gone over the 9,000 yard mark. Lemon is his favorite target and they havent disappointed ‘Cuse fans, hooking up for 70 cathce and over 1,000 yards with 7 TD’s. Theyve been on fire since the Luoisville game and look to carry it into the shootout with WVU.
Defensively, the “Cuse have but one playmaker in Marquis Spruill, and he has been suspended following an arrest. And let’s face it neither team plays defense so it’s no surprise there are few stars on that side of the ball up in New York.
Season High – Low Head coach Doug Morrone looked to be in danger of leaving Syracuse way before he actually wanted to. The Orange started off the season 2-6 but rebounded nicely to finish strong and get a bowl bid. They are riding their season high right now having witnessed their two play-makers getting things going to upset Louisville. He may have thrown some ice on his hot-seat and looks to keep the team on a roll in the post season.
The Mountaineers started off the season with a Heisman contender or two (Smith and Austin), a close to top ten ranking (#11 preseason) and a new conference that was catered to Dana Holgersens style of offense. All of those things stayed true through wins against Baylor and highly ranked Texas on the road. Then a strange thing happened on the way to Texas Tech, they forgot that high powered offense. They ran into the meat of the schedule and couldn’t recover until they were almost in the basement themselves, losing to Oklahoma at home by 1 (50-49) served as a wake up. They better win the last two if they want to salvage the season and play in a bowl game.
Playmakers: Webster’s Dictionary defines . . , who the heck cares how they define playmaker? If you want to know what a true playmaker is, take a good long hard look at Tavon Austin. Smith and Bailey have been getting the lying share of the publicity, but I have said since the middle of last season that Austin is the real deal. He is the epitomy of what a play-maker is and he can light it up from anywhere on the field and from any position.
I haven’t like very many Mountaineers over the years and as a matter of fact the last one I did was their last true play-maker in James Jett. The speadster was an Olympic Gold medal winner and played for my beloved Bengals. Austin’s stats for the season are mind boggling and I am still in shock over how the Heisman voters didn’t put them on their list. Let’s start with his rushing; 61 carries for 598 yards and 3 TD’s. That’s 9.8 yards a carry and a long of 74 for a wide receiver. Receiving; 110 for 1259 and 12 TD’s. That’s 104 YPG and an average of 11.4 per catch and a long of 75. He’s the reason Bailey had the season he did on the other side and should give him a commission out of his NFL pay and say thank you. He also combined for almost 1,000 yards in kick-off and punt returns and had two TD’s. One a mesmerizing 100 kick-off return and the other a 76 yard punt return. The only ways he didn’t score this season is PAT’s and a pick six.
After all of that, there really isn’t anyone on defense to talk about, but maybe Holgersen should consider playing Tavon Austin over their so he can get the pick six, and who knows, even Ochocinco kicked a PAT once.
Season High – Low: After having beat Texas on the road and getting Geno Smith in a position to contend for the Heisman, they were ranked #5 in the polls when they were toppled by un-ranked Texas Tech on the road. They had a great chance to redeem themselves and facing a great match-up at home against #4 Kansas State they took another on the chin and it would be five straight losses before they would make things right. If the Mountaineers wnat to win in New York, they better figure out how to play defense, we all know they can score.
Ohio State Against Participants: The Buckeyes and Orangemen have met six times over the years and OSU leads the series 4-2. The most memorable game sin the season would actually be the last two times they faced each other on the gridiron. Having lost to the highly ranked Orangemen in the Hall of Fame bowl at the end of the 1991 season, the Buckeyes returned the favor to an undefeated and highly ranked “Cuse team in the Carrier Dome the following season much in the same way they were beaten just nine months earlier. Buckeyes would roll this time around 42 to 17.
Even though it really could be an amazing rivalry since the citizens of both states appear to hate each other, the Mountaineers and Buckeyes have only met twice. Neither team was that good in the 1987 match-up in Columbus, but Don Nehlen’s squad hadn’t learned how to play ofense just yet. Buckeyes won that one 24-3. There was plenty of hype surrounding the final return to Morgantown after a scheduling change with Notre Lame opened the door in a three way deal that made it possible between the three schools. Mountaineers had a good offense behind QB Mark Bulger and put up a good fight but couldn’t handle the fire power from one of John Cooper’s most talented squads. The Buckeyes wound up being #1 and were upset at home by Sparty later that season. On their best day, WVU would beat the Buckeyes, but not in my world. Buckeyes 42 to 34
Expert Picks: WVU: WVa, Eric, Janelle, Mali, Gary, Tim Cuse: Jason
Prediction: With the way the season has gone for both teams defensively, I am pretty much calling a WVU/Syracuse basketball score here. There is no way either team will try to play defense all of a sudden. As a matter of fact, the basketball teams play better defense in the grand scheme of things. Whoever has the ball last will win and this should be one of the more exciting bowl games of the season, It’s going to be cold too, New York in the dead of winter cold. WVU 59 to 47