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Mitch Vingle's matchups

WVU pass offense vs. Syracuse pass defense

Syracuse's pass defense will remind WVU quarterback Geno Smith of many he faced within the Big 12. The Orange has the nation's No. 62 pass defense. If you look to pass efficiency defensive stats, the team is worse at No. 93. Safety Shamarko Thomas leads the team in tackles with 84. Corner Keon Lyn has three picks. WVU, meanwhile, has the nation's No. 6 pass offense and Smith is No. 4 nationally in passing yards per game (333.7). He's throwing to two All-America receivers in Tavon Austin, No. 2 in receptions per game (9.2), and Stedman Bailey, No. 4 in the same category. Edge: Mountaineers

Syracuse pass offense vs. WVU pass defense

As with most quarterbacks this season, Syracuse's Ryan Nassib should have fun playing against West Virginia's pass defense. Aside from the play of true freshman safety Karl Joseph, there's been little for the Mountaineers to smile about here. WVU is next to last nationally in pass defense and pass efficiency defense. Syracuse, meanwhile, has the nation's No. 21 pass offense (No. 34 in pass efficiency offense). Nassib is No. 12 in passing yards per game (301.6) and has two fine targets in 6-foot Marcus Sales and 6-2 Alec Lemon. The latter has 1,063 receiving yards. Edge: Orange

WVU run offense vs. Syracuse pass defense

This is where statistics can be dead on - or dead wrong. The WVU run offense is ranked No. 46 nationally, averaging 177.6 yards. Andrew Buie is No. 94 nationally at 68.1 yards per game. But Dana Holgorsen invigorated the attack with Tavon Austin and now has rejuvenated power back Shawne Alston. In sum, WVU can be lethal rushing the ball. Syracuse, meanwhile, has the nation's No. 48 run defense and is No. 50 in total defense. Linebacker Siriki Diabate is second on the team in tackles with 67. But watch to see if LB Marquis Spruill, arrested Dec. 2, plays. Edge: Mountaineers

Syracuse run offense vs. WVU run defense

Whereas there's intrigue and a twist to WVU's rushing attack, there's neither when it comes to Syracuse. The Orange has relied on 6-foot, 217-pound junior Jerome Smith and 5-10, 192-pound Prince-Tyson Gulley to run the ball, with a sprinkle of QB Nassib. The two running backs are combining to average 136.3 yards. SU is No. 53 nationally in run offense (171.8). Likewise, there's not much intrigue to WVU's run defense, which has been solid at No. 41 nationally, allowing an average of 142.5 yards. Linebacker Isaiah Bruce is the team's second-leading tackler with 86. Edge: Mountaineers

Special teams

WVU owns Syracuse when it comes to special teams statistics. The Mountaineers have not been known as special teams demons, but have the Orange whipped in net punting, punt returns, punt return yardage defense and kickoff returns. The only major category in which Syracuse reigns supreme in is kickoff return yardage defense, in which it ranks No. 4 nationally. SU kicker Ross Krautman is 13 of 21 in field goal attempts, better than Mountaineer Tyler Bitancurt, who is 11 of 18. Austin, though, is among the nation's best at returning punts and kicks. Edge: Mountaineers

Intangibles

This category goes to Syracuse. Every story out of the Syracuse area indicates the Orange is excited to play in the bowl. The feel around the WVU team, meanwhile, is the game is a slap in the face for a program that paid $20 million to escape the Big East. Also, at the beginning of the season, West Virginia was riding high, ranked in the Top 10 with the leading Heisman Trophy contender in Smith. A national title run and, certainly, a BCS bowl were in sight. Now this. Syracuse is basically playing at home, and coach Doug Marrone is. He was born in the Bronx. Edge: Orange

Vingle prediction: Orange will fight like Marvin Graves, but . . . WVU 42, Syracuse 41

 

 

 


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