WVU - Syracuse Matchups

It has all the makings of a classic "trap" game - so WVU must win these battles in order to avoid falling into the pit and ruining their Big East title hopes.


WVU linebacker Grant Wiley vs. Syracuse quarterback R. J. Anderson

A multi-dimensional battle between two multi-dimensional players. Wiley will be reading and reacting to Anderson, and will have to make the right choices in order to keep the Syracuse signalcaller from having a day like he did against Boston College.

Wiley will be playing Anderson in both the passing game and the running game, which makes it difficult to get settled into a comfort zone. One one play Anderson drops back, then takes off on a draw. The next, he comes down the line on an option look, then peels back to pass. It's all part of the Orangemen's multi-dimensional offense, and provides a series of thorny problems that Wiley must be able to dissect on the run.

If Wiley can keep Anderson from ripping off any long runs while also sufficiently covering the short and intermediate passing zones, WVU will win the game. But even for WVU's Nagurski finalist, that will be a tough task. Anderson has shown a great deal of improvement in his play this year, and has become a true dual threat for the Orangemen.

WVU center Jeremy Hines vs. Syracuse ose guard Christian Ferrara

Head coach Rich Rodriguez summed up this matchup by noting that "we didn't block #93 last year at all". Although that eventuality didn't affect the outcome of the game, it certainly will have a bigger impact this year.

Jeremy Hines
In order to run inside, Hines must be able to move Ferrara, or at least neutralize him so that he can't get off Hines' block and jam up running lanes. The Mountaineers were singularly unsuccessful at that task last year, at least in Rodriguez' view.

This is one of the easiest line battles to watch, but it often goes unnoticed because it's so much more natural to follow the ball than it is to watch the big guys in the middle. But if you can, tear away from the ball for the first few seconds and watch this classic battle of youth vs. experience. You'll still have time to find the ball before much happens, and you'll also have a head start in determining the success of the play.

WVU superback Quincy Wilson vs. Syracuse linebacker Rich Scanlon

Another matchup of marquee players in a marquee game. Scanlon and his Syracuse teammates have been concentrating in practice this week on wrapping up and not allowing Wilson to break tackles. Wilson's signature, of course, is the tackle-busting run in which he leaves bodies scattered in his wake.

In the inside zone, Wilson will often be confronted by Scanlon, whose success in stopping or slowing "Q" will be vital to the Orangmen's hopes of containing the Mountaineer rushing game.

Want a stat to track? Count the number of broken tackles Quincy causes. If that number is in double figures, WVU's chances are good. If Syracuse limits the second chances, the Orangemen have a much better chance of celebrating a win.


Keep an eye on how both teams use different formations, and a variety of different play calls, on their first couple of possessions. While both offenses are obviously trying to move the ball and score, they are also putting different formations on the field to see how the opposing defense reacts.

From that information, the coaching staff can determine which plays, and which formations, have the best chance of succeeding. With both teams employing this strategy, it's likely that you won't see the same formation twice early in the contest.

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It's been beaten to death, but it's worth repeating because it's important. Keep an eye on Rasheed Marshall's passes to the sideline early in the game (or in warmups if you will be there in person). If they are low, it's likely due to the crownless field in the Carrier Dome. With WVU's passing game predicated on a number of sideline routes, it's important that Marshall find his groove early.

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West Virginia has shown remarkable poise for a young team this year, even when falling behind or facing adversity. WVU's rallies on the road at Miami and Boston College were Exhibits A and B of this trait, and the Mountaineers' roaring comeback from a touchdown deficit against Pitt last week wasn't shabby either.

For whatever reason, this Mountaineer squad has remained calm and played hard even when things aren't going well. That's the mark of a good team, and while WVU hopes to not have to climb out of a hole again this weekend, it's good to know that they have the ability to do so.

Should West Virginia get on the wrong end of the score, check out the bench, and the sidelines. The guess is you won't see much in the way of panic or confusion - just resolve and determination.

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