When: Friday, 8p, ESPN
Line: WVU -14.5
West Virginia Players to Watch:
Geno Smith, QB: 2159 yards, 16 TD, 3 INT
Tavon Austin, WR: 42 rec, 562 yards, 2 TD, 1 return TD
Stedman Bailey, WR: 34 rec, 634 yards, 5 TD
Terrence Garvin, S: 38 total tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2 INT
Syracuse Players to Watch:
Ryan Nassib, QB: 1294 yards, 11 TD, 4 INT
Antwon Bailey, RB: 663 total yards, 4.5 YPR, 5 TD
Nick Provo, TE: 22 rec, 265 yards, 2 TD
Phillip Thomas, S: 46 total tackles, 2.5 TFL, 3 INT
How do both teams respond to a bye week? WVU has been on a roll. Will the bye week slow the Mountaineers down, or will hitting the film room bring a more efficient offense? Meanwhile, Syracuse has struggled to put a full game together. A week off may have been a welcome sight for the coaching staff, and the banged up defense.
Will the Mountaineers go right back to the air? They probably should. Syracuse is allowing nearly 300 pass yards a contest. However, the Orange are also giving up around 100 rushing yards per game too, so WVU will have options. Look for Dana Holgorsen to mix and match early on. If the running game gets going it's hard to think that Geno can be stopped.
Have Special Teams turned the corner? The unit was fantastic against Connecticut. Punting improved, coverage improved, placekicking was outstanding, and the return is fine. After five-plus years of futility has a light finally turned on? Or, was it just one of those "good" days? Only time will tell. Even an average performance against Syracuse would be a good sign of things to come.
Playing in the dome is always a treat. If Syracuse can get a good crowd, WVU will have to deal with some solid noise. The Mountaineers will have a lot of people lining up who haven't played in the dome, including Geno. And, let's not forget that the Orange won in Morgantown last year. The rivalry may be dying soon too, with Syracuse going to the ACC, so look for both teams to get after it early.