College Football Preview: West Virginia at Syracuse Betting Predictions

Doc MosemanCorrespondent IOctober 20, 2011

MORGANTOWN, WV - SEPTEMBER 24: Geno Smith #12 of the West Virginia Mountaineers drops back to pass against the Louisiana State University Tigers during the game on September 24, 2011 at Mountaineer Field in Morgantown, West Virginia.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Syracuse will be facing new West Virginia Head Coach Dana Holgorsen for the first time on Friday night. In a twisted way it is at least partly their fault that Bill Stewart is gone and Holgorsen is in charge.

Last year when these Big East rivals met, West Virginia was ranked 20th and was strongly favored to win the Big East. Syracuse went into Morgantown as two-touchdown underdogs and came out as 19-14 winners in a stunning upset. That loss led to another in the next game, and before they knew what hit them the Mountaineers had lost the conference and missed out on the BCS.

Now West Virginia is ranked even higher at 11th and are again heavily favored to win the Big East. This time they travel to Syracuse, and even with a different head coach you can be sure that revenge will be on their minds — or at the very least the avoidance of another setback like last year.

Though the spread is fairly large here Syracuse has clearly established an aptitude for playing close games. Their last game was a three-point win at Tulane, but that’s a lopsided regulation time result compared to most.

Syracuse has shockingly gone into overtime three times in just six games so far this year. Making it into overtime here would have to be regarded as a huge success for the Orange as they try to hold on to the Schwartzwalder Trophy.

While it has no bearing on the result of the game, the highlight of the night might be the halftime ceremony. Syracuse will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of Ernie Davis’ Heisman Trophy win. Davis was the first African-American winner of the award, and he died of leukemia before he played a game in the NFL.

West Virginia at Syracuse Betting Storylines

The obvious focus in this game is Geno Smith and the West Virginia offense. Smith has been fantastic this year, and his offense has averaged more than 40 points and 500 yards per game so far. Smith has been accurate and effective and growing with confidence each week.

Last year Smith threw three interceptions in the first half against Syracuse, and that was obviously a big contributing factor in the upset. Barring a miraculous defensive improvement for the Orange since their last game, though, they cannot count on Smith throwing three picks in a half again — he only has three all year — so they will have to find another way to contain him. If Smith can keep doing what he has been doing to teams this year then it will be a long night for Syracuse.

Syracuse senior QB Ryan Nassib also needs to be better than he was last year — he was just 5-of-15 for 63 yards in that game. While he’s not going to bring Syracuse another Heisman, Nassab is playing much better this year than last year. His completion percentage has gone up more than eight percent, and his TD-to-Int ratio has improved.

He is a long way from explosive, though, so he’ll need to have the game of his life against a solid and improving West Virginia defense to come out on top here.

The one thing we should see here are two well-prepared teams. Both squads are well-coached, and both are coming off of bye weeks, so they should be well prepared and should have some creativity up their sleeves in this one. That should make the game more interesting to watch.

The rest works slightly to the advantage of the Orange. They have been hit hard by injuries — especially on defense — but the time off has helped them heal and get a little healthier.

West Virginia at Syracuse Betting Odds and Trends

There is some interesting line movement. The game opened with West Virginia favored by 14 points, and three-quarters of the bets have been on the Mountaineers. You would expect the line to stay even or even increase slightly in the face of that kind of action, but the line has actually fallen to 13.5 in several spots, according to the latest college football odds.

That movement is a sign that some smart money action has been on the Orange. The total opened at 58 and has remained stable in early action.

West Virginia is 9-3 ATS in their last 12 games against teams with winning records, and 7-3 ATS in their last 10 against Syracuse. The ‘under’ is 10-4-1 in the last 15 games between these squads.

West Virginia at Syracuse Betting Predictions

I have to go with West Virginia here. I am a bit skeptical about them since they have only played one impressive team — LSU — and they were crushed by them. Still, Smith is confident, and he’ll be playing against a defense with issues.

The Syracuse football schedule has not been very impressive, and the Orange just does not have the power to match the Mountaineers on either side of the ball. West Virginia will look to make a statement, and at -13.5 they are the right choice.

Doc Moseman is the owner of Doc’s Sports football picks Web site.