The Camping World Bowl wasn't exactly the postseason game West Virginia had in mind when it began the 2018 season just a few months ago. There's just no way to sugar coat that. This was a team with Big 12 Championship Game aspirations, but a pair of brutal losses to end November vs. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State kept the Mountaineers just out of reach of Arlington, Texas. As a result, star quarterback Will Grier, wide receiver Gary Jennings and offensive lineman Yodny Cajuste will be skipping the bowl to prepare for the NFL Draft. That's some major departures for a WVU team that will need all of its offensive weapons against a tough Syracuse team.
However, there is at least one interesting angle for this game in that it's an old Big East matchup against historical rival Syracuse, and there's certainly a lot to play for with the Orange, who can cap off their best season since 2001 and can also get their first 10-win effort in the same span. How will the Camping World Bowl unfold? With any luck, there could still be plenty of points and a fun finish.
Event: Camping World Bowl
Date: Friday, Dec. 28 | Time: 5:15 p.m. ET
Location: Camping World Stadium -- Orlando, Florida
TV: ESPN | Live stream: WatchESPN
West Virginia: Another way to view this game for the Mountaineers is that it's almost a preview of next season (Some bowl games, for that matter, are beginning to function that way for many teams). Grier is out, so coach Dana Holgorsen will turn to backup Jack Allison, and maybe even freshman Trey Lowe at times to run the offense. Allison, a former quarterback at Miami, only attempted 10 passes this season but has been groomed to be Grier's replacement. These are the types of games in which getting those extra bowl practices can help jump-start things for the next season. What does the offense look like with Allison? The end of the 2018 season may have been disappointing for West Virginia, but this game can provide a sense of optimism heading into 2019.
Syracuse: West Virginia won't be the only team missing key players for this bowl. The Orange will be without defensive end Alton Robinson and nose tackle McKinley Williams for what is only being deemed as "personal reasons." Robinson, in particular, is a big loss as he was tied for second in the ACC with 10 sacks (only 0.5 sacks behind conference leader Clelin Ferrell from Clemson). While its offense gets most of the attention, Syracuse's pass rush has been relentless and was second in the ACC only to Clemson. With Cajuste out for West Virginia, Robinson could have been a factor off of the edge. Williams' absence is big in its own right, however, as the interior of West Virginia's line has been suspect all season.
Game prediction, picks
This looked like an even game on paper before all of the attrition on both sides. While neither team is at full strength, the losses of Grier, Jennings and Cajuste are huge. The Mountaineers defense, picked apart in the final month of the regular season, will be looking to get right, but Cuse quarterback Eric Dungey is a one-man show and should be the difference. Pick: Syracuse +1.5
Who wins West Virginia vs. Syracuse? And which side covers almost 60 percent of the time? Visit SportsLine now to see which side you need to be all over Dec. 27, all from the incredible computer model that has returned over $4,200 to $100 bettors, and find out.