In spite of a bowl game hyped for the quarterbacks, watch for the WVU running game to dominate the Orange in New York.
The reason? The weather. Expect high 30s to low 40s at kickoff with dropping temperatures. There will probably be either freezing rain or snow.
Jerome Smith, a 5'11", 215-pound junior, will be expected to carry the load for Syracuse.
Smith is not known for his speed and breakaway runs. While he gained 1,019 yards on 198 carries for an average of 5.1 yards per carry, his longest run was 35 yards and he only scored three touchdowns.
Four WVU linebackers his size or bigger will keep him mostly in check on a slippery field.
Second on the Orange rushing is Prince-Tyson Gulley, a 5'9", 181-pound junior with 617 yards on 132 carries for seven touchdowns. He averaged 4.7 yards per carry with a longest run of 55 yards.
WVU counters with the "Bull," Shawne Alston. Alston is 5'11", 235 pounds and is very hard to bring down when healthy. He had one of his best games last year in a heavy snowfall.
In a season he spent most of the time sidelined by injury, he still managed 5.5 yards per carry and seven touchdowns.
With three additional weeks to heal and prepare, look for Alston to have the best game of his career.
It certainly doesn't hurt that Tavon Austin, a 5'9", 175-pound senior, will line up in the same backfield as a split back or flanker.
Austin is probably the most exciting player in college football this year, having rushed for 598 yards for an average of 9.8 yards per carry in addition to catching 110 passes for 1,259 yards.
Neither defense was highly ranked, but on offense WVU averaged 41 points per game compared to Syracuse's 29. WVU was much more successful when they could run as well as pass.
I expect both Alston and Austin to have a good game, with the weather deciding who has the most success running the ball.
Tune in to the game to watch two very good quarterbacks in a shootout. Keep watching to see WVU run over, around and through the Orange defense. Could the weather make this game a preview of next season?
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