No. 15 WVU has No. 17 Syracuse at Camping World Bowl
WVU (8-3) was passed over by the Alamo Bowl, which elected to take Iowa State as the Big 12 representative. The Mountaineers came in at No. 16 in the final College Football Playoff rankings earlier Sunday. West Virginia last played in the Camping World Bowl, then known as the Russell Athletic Bowl, in a 2016 loss to Miami.
“We’re excited to be going to the Camping World Bowl in Orlando once again,” WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said Sunday. “From a proximity point of view, it’s spectacular. It’s perfect for us. Wer[re pretty familiar with the state of Florida, with Orlando and with how things work down there for the bowl game.
“We’ve got a great, old Big East matchup with us and Syracuse. I’m excited about that and I know our fan base is going to be excited about rekindling some old memories. I think both teams are really exciting to watch. We’ve both had great years.”
Syracuse (9-3) finished second in the ACC Coastal division behind Clemson. The Orange and Mountaineers have history dating back to 1945. Syracuse leads the all-time series against WVU 33-27, with many of the most recent meetings coming when the two were both members of the Big East Conference.
The Orange have won the last three meetings between the teams, most recently a 38-14 win at the 2012 Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium.
“I’m getting caught up on [the WVU-Syracuse rivalry] as we speak,” Syracuse coach Dino Babers said. “I hear that the fan base will be rabid about it, and we’re looking forward to going back against our old Big East foe.”
As for who will be playing in the Camping World Bowl for West Virginia, Holgorsen doesn’t know yet. He said he’ll find that out when the team gets back together after finals this week.
“I don’t know,” Holgorsen said when asked if anyone planned to sit out the bowl game. “That’s an interesting question. That’s the question that every head coach across the country is going to be asked and have to respond to it. I’ve been out on the road recruiting. I’m currently up in New York for some meetings. I gave our guys a week off and then next week is all about academics as they wrap up the semester. I’ve got a recruiting weekend next weekend, which is when we’re going to reconvene as a football team and kind of see where their mind is.”
Syracuse scored an average of 40.75 points per game this season, led by senior quarterback Eric Dungey. An Oregon native, Dungey completed 205 of 341 pass attempts this season for 2,565 yards to go with 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Dungey was also dangerous with his feet, running for 732 yards and 15 touchdowns on 167 attempts.
“Me and Coach Babers - me and Dino - go back way back,” Holgorsen said. “We’ve known each other for a long time. We grew up in the air raid systems and he’s been going to clincs since back in my early Texas Tech days when he was at Texas A&M. He spent a little time at Baylor and took that system, then went to Bowling Green and went to Syracuse and has had unbelievable success as a head coach running that type of system. So I’m very familiar with what they do.
“They’re fast-paced. They snap it quick. They’re going to snap it a lot, they’re going to run the ball, they’re going to be physical. They’re going to throw it all over the place and score a lot of points then play really good on defense as well. I know their turnover margin is out of sight. Sounds like a Big 12 school to me that just happens to now be in the ACC.”
West Virginia offensive coordinator Jake Spavital was named the the new head coach at Texas State this week. Holgorsen said he would leave the door open for Spavital to take part in the Camping World Bowl with WVU, but he has not heard from him yet.
“I haven’t heard from Jake since his press conference [at Texas State],” Holgorsen said. “Obviously I talked to him throughout the process and thrilled to death. He was a hot commodity and had several schools that were talking to him as far as being the head coach. He settled on Texas State, which is great for Texas State and the Sun Belt conference. Once he called me and said, ‘I like it. I’m taking it.’ I said congratulations and then we both started recruiting. He’s going to be buckled down with recruits here for the next three weeks. [Calling the bowl game for WVU] is 100 percent his decision. I’m not in a hurry to replace him. I will obviously take over any duties he can not do, whether it’s game-planning, coaching quarterbacks or calling plays. I think I’m fairly qualified to be able to do that. I would would love to have him come and be a part of this bowl game and he knows that. If he can make it work based on his new situation, he’ll be welcome to do so.
Kickoff for the Camping World Bowl is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. on Dec. 28 at Camping World Stadium, with the game broadcast on ESPN.