Syracuse Vs. West Virginia: Scouting The Mountaineers

The Syracuse University football program has a chance Friday night (8 p.m. on ESPN) to retain the Schwartzwalder Trophy for the second straight year -- the first time since 2000-01 -- as West Virginia University travels to the Carrier Dome for a Big East Conference match up. The Orange (5-1, 0-1 Big East) defeated the Mountaineers (5-1, 1-0) last season, 19-14, but will have their hands full with WVU, which is ranked No. 11 in the AP Poll, No. 14 in the USA Today/Coaches Poll and No. 15 in the Bowl Championship Series standings.

In case, you don't know much about the West Virginia Mountaineers, here's a brief scoring report:

Head Coach

After just one season as the offensive coordinator at University of Oklahoma State, Dana Holgorsen left to take the head coaching job in Morgantown. Holgorsen, who is proclaimed to be an offensive genius, has helped the Mountaineers jump out to a 5-1 start and is currently the front runner to win the Big East's BCS automatic bowl berth. 

This Season

West Virginia's only loss came on the road to Louisiana State University, 41-24, in Week 4. In retrospect, the loss wasn't that bad considering that the Tigers are the top-ranked program in the nation. The Mountaineers biggest victory came against the University of Maryland, 37-31, in Week 3. Two weeks ago, WVU began its Big East season with a 43-16 victory over the University of Connecticut.

Offense

Currently, junior quarterback Geno Smith is by far the Big East's best quarterback. Smith is ranked fifth nationally in passing yardage per game (359.8) and sixth in total offense (357.67). In the Big East, Smith has the highest passing efficiency rating (152.4) and a league-best 16 passing touchdowns. However, last season against Syracuse, Smith tossed three INTs and was sacked five times in a loss at Morgantown.

At wide receiver, the Mountaineers are led by sophomore Stedman Bailey (5-foot-10, 190-pounds) who leads the team and Big East conference with 105.7 receiving yards per game. Though, Bailey has been Smith's biggest target, WVU has two other wide outs that the Syracuse secondary will need to key on.

Junior Tavon Austin (5-9, 176) is second in the Big East with 94 receiving yards per game, but is also third in the nation in all purpose yards (193.5), while sophomore Ivan McCartney has 34 receptions.

This season, WVU doesn't have a stellar rushing attack -- ranked fifth out of eight programs in the Big East and 93rd in the nation -- but, a pair of freshmen lead the way. Running back Dustin Garrison has rushed for a team-best 436 yards, while Andrew Buie has 28 rushing attempts (the second most on the team).

Meanwhile, WVU's offensive line is only allowing 1.17 sacks per game.

In the red zone, WVU is scoring 93.8 percent of the time which has helped the offense rank No. 1 in the Big East and No. 11 nationally.

Defense

Not only are the Mountaineers solid on offense, but their defense is ranked 16th in the country -- currently, WVU is one of four FCS programs that are ranked in the top 20 in both offense and defense.

Currently, WVU has the Big East's best pass defense allowing just 181.33 yards per game. However, it's rushing defense is allowing 119.83 yards per game.

Senior linebacker Najee Goode and corner back Pat Miller leads WVU with 41 tackles, while senior defensive end Bruce Irvin had a team-best seven tackles for a loss with 2 1/2 sacks.

Conclusion

This will be Syracuse's toughest match up of the season. Not only is WVU's offense one of the best in the nation, its defense has the speed and talent to hold the Orange's attack at bay. It's a good thing that defensive backs Shamarko Thomas and Orlando Fisher and defense end Chandler Jones will be healthy because SU will need every able body to slow down the Mountaineers.

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