WVU - Syracuse Matchups

We take a slightly different look at the West Virginia - Syracuse head to head battles this week, including one that involves a member of the coaching staff.

KEY BATTLES:

WVU offensive line coach Rick Trickett vs. Syracuse defensive end Dwight Freeney

We're not anticipating Trickett lining up against the talented Syracuse defensive end (although we wouldn't bet against Trickett!) Rather, we think the matchup to watch will be in how Trickett schemes to block Freeney.

If WVU goes with their normal alignments, then Lance Nimmo, and on some occasions, Tim Brown, will be lined up one on one against Freeney.

Trickett can give help in a variety of ways. He can put a tight end on Freeney's side, he can keep the superback in to block, or he could run a two back set.

That last option is the most intriguing, because the Mountaineers have rarely thrown out of the two back alignment this season. That could be a wrinkle for which Syracuse in unprepared.

We agree with Trickett (and other coaches) who say that schemes are sometimes overrated. We know that in the end, it all comes down to how the players perform on the field. However, WVU's schemes, and the counter moves by Freeney, should be interesting to watch.

WVU tight end Tory Johnson versus Syracuse linebackers Rich Scanlon and Charles Burton

We've seen glimpses of the utilitization of the tight end in the Mountaineer passing attack, and this week could be a time to feature that play phase.



Tory Johnson
We're not expecting Johnson to catch ten passes or anything along those lines, but he could be an excellent weapon to employ against the Syracuse pass rush. Quick routes and passes to the tight end would negate the threat of a sack on Mountaineer quarterbacks, and also allow Tory to showcase his running ability after the catch.

Johnson snagged a pass in the flat and made a couple of nice moves that resulted in a 28 yard gain against Rutgers, and we could see a couple of similar scenarios developing against the Orangemen.

WVU linebacker Kyle Kayden versus Syracuse fullback Kyle Johnson

The battle for Kyle supremacy will tell the tale of much of Syracuse's succes son the option. The Orangemen run all the option packages known to man, including the speed, freeze, whirlybird and counter, but the majority of them have one thing in common - getting the fullback block on the middle linebacker.

The good guys' Kyle will have to avoid getting locked up with the evil Kyle. If Kayden can consistently flow to the ball, Syracuse will have trouble getting the option untracked. If Johnson wins the majority of the battles, James Mungro will gain 100+ yards and WVU will be in for a long day.

THINGS TO WATCH:

The flatness of Syracuse's field has been mentioned this week, and it will play a factor. While WVU has one of the highest-crowned fields in the conference, the Carrier Dome's playing surface is pool table flat. That factor can affect everything from sideline passes to simply running and keeping your feet - it takes a while to get used to.

Another factor about the Dome that hasn't been mentioned is the lighting. It's not bad, just different. The light is "flat", and it can make depth perception difficult, especially on balls that are high in the air. In fact, being in the Carrier Dome is sort of like playing and watching a video game.

The loss of Phil Braxton will affect WVU's passing game, but it will also put a crimp in the Mountaineers' kickoff returns. Braxton has been an excellent blocker on returns, and also averaged 27 yards per return on the few occasions when opponents kicked him the ball. (As a side note, we still can't figure out why team's kick the ball to Shawn Terry.)

Braxton will be replaced by either Mike Page or Shawn Swindall, and the Mountaineers need a high level of performance from them to ensure that one of their biggest weapons is neutralized.

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