NCAAF: Friday, December 28, 2018, Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Florida, 5:015 PM ET
The 29th edition of the Camping World Bowl will see the Big 12 West Virginia Mountaineers against the ACC Syracuse Orange, as the Mountaineers are looking to secure their first title here in their fifth bowl, while the Orange are hoping to get the first title on their second appearance here. The Orange are favorites at the -1.5 spread with the total at 65.5 points and Syracuse at -120 money line odds.
The Mountaineers narrowly lost in a classic shootout with Oklahoma
West Virginia suffered the second straight defeat and this was also a tight one; after losing to Oklahoma State, 45-41, the Mountaineers fell short to the Oklahoma Sooners, 59-56. The Mountaineers had the 49-45 lead at the end of the third quarter but the visitors scored two touchdowns in the final 15 minutes to secure a spot in the Big 12 championship game. West Virginia totaled more yards than the Sooners (704-668) and had eight more first downs (33-25) and destroyed the visitors through the air, collecting 539 yards and four touchdowns but their defense couldn’t stop Oklahoma on the other end. It was their worst defensive performance of the year and the Mountaineers allowed 104 points in the last two games, which is very concerning.
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Senior quarterback Will Grier is completing 67 percent of his passes for 3864 yards with 37 touchdowns and eight assists for the Mountaineers. Grier had a fantastic display in a loss to the Sooners as he threw for 539 yards and four touchdowns, one of the best performances in his career. He had a great year with West Virginia but the Mountaineers cannot count on Grier as the quarterback announced his decision to skip the bowl game in order to prepare for the NFL draft. Sophomore Jack Allison will likely get an opportunity to start and shine in a game against Syracuse. Kennedy McKoy, Martell Pettaway, and Leddie Brown will provide a support on the ground as the running backs combined for over 1700 yards and 17 TD’s this season, while Gary Jennings Jr. and David Sills V should be Allison’s preferred options in the air as the wide receivers collected more than 1800 yards and even 28 touchdowns this year.
West Virginia has the 9th offense that is averaging 42.3 points per contest, while their defense is the 60th in college football as it is allowing 26.5 points per game. The Mountaineers’ passing game is the 3rd in the country as they are averaging 358.1 yards, while their running offense is 74th as they are recording 162.3 yards per game.
The Orange closed the regular season with a win over Boston College
Syracuse’s four-game winning streak ended with a massive loss to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, but the Orange responded well in the following clash with the Boston College Eagles and secured a convincing 42-21 victory. The Orange collected 559 yards in opposite to the Eagles’ 356 and they had ten more first downs than the hosts (28-18), while their running and passing offense combined for six touchdowns. Syracuse finished the regular season with 9-3 record, which was good enough for head coach Dino Babers to get an extension on his current deal with the school after taking the Orange to the first bowl game since 2013. However, they will be weakened in the defense as defensive end Alton Robinson, whose 10 sacks rank second in the ACC this season, and nose tackle McKinley Williams will both miss Friday’s game due to “personal reasons”.
Senior quarterback Eric Dungey is completing 60.1 percent of his passes for 2565 yards with 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions for the Orange. Dungey was excellent in a win over the Eagles as he threw for 362 yards with three touchdowns and an interception, while he also added three rushing touchdowns. Jamal Custis, Sean Riley, Nykeim Johnson, and Taj Harris should be his air support in this one as the quartet of wide receivers combined for over 2600 yards and 16 touchdowns this year, while Moe Neal and Dontae Strickland (1300+ rushing yards and 11 touchdowns) will run alongside Dungey.
Syracuse has the 10th offense that is averaging 40.8 points per contest, while their defense is the 72nd in college football as it is allowing 27.8 points per game. The Orange’s passing game is the 35th in the country as they are averaging 261.5 yards, while their running offense is among the top 30 as they are recording 216.4 yards per game (30th).
• 1-6 ATS in their last seven neutral site games
• 0-5 ATS in their last five bowl games
• 0-6 ATS in their last six games played in December
• 0-4 ATS in their last four vs. ACC
• 9-1-1 ATS in their last 11 games following a straight up win
• 6-1-1 ATS in their last eight games after accumulating more than 200 yards rushing in their previous game
• 5-1 ATS in their last six games after scoring more than 40 points in their previous game
• 4-1-1 ATS in their last six non-conference games
The Winner Prediction
Syracuse won three out of the previous five H2H encounters including the last three but the last time when these schools met was in December 2012. The Mountaineers are 1-4 ATS in those five meetings and I am backing the Orange to win this one because West Virginia will find it hard to cope without star quarterback Grier. West Virginia’s coach Dana Holgorsen has more experience when it comes to bowl games as this will be his seventh bowl and second straight Camping World Bowl, and he is looking for the third title and first one here following the last year’s defeat to the Miami Hurricanes. On the other hand, this will be Dino Babers’ third bowl game and first with the Orange and even though he doesn’t have much experience as Holgorsen, his team is in a better form at the moment and they will exploit Grier’s absence, that’s why I am backing Syracuse to get a win here.
The Pick: Syracuse Orange (-120)
Considering that these teams are combining for over 80 points per contest, we should expect a high-scoring affair here but I don’t think it’ll happen because West Virginia is playing without Will Grier who has been one of the biggest offensive stars in college football this year. That will seriously limit the Mountaineers in the offense, so I think they will try to control the game with their defense that has not been impressive lately. I am also going with under because under is 4-0 in Orange last four games following a straight up win of more than 20 points, under is 5-1 in Orange previous six neutral site games, while under is 3-0-1 in Mountaineers last four neutral site games.
The Pick: Under 66 (-110)