Every time WVU travels to the Dome, the noise factor is brought up. It's true that when the fans are fired up the Carrier Dome can be loud. However, it's usually not that way from the start of the game.
Syracuse fans are more of the "show me" variety - they need to see some success before they jack up the decibels.
That's not a rip on 'Cuse fans. In fact, it's the norm at most stadiums around the country these days, including Mountaineer Field. The upshot is that if WVU can avoid early three and outs and prevent a first quarter big play, they'll have a good chance of eliminating the noise factor from the game.
Despite the attention that's been focused on former Mountaineer assistant Steve Dunlap's first showdown with his former team, little has been said about the strategy he figures to employ.
We don't expect Dunlap to make the same mistakes that Miami made, namely, play five or six defensive backs and allow seams for Avon Cobourne. We expect the Orangemen to go for the running game shutdown from the start, especially with the absence of injured WVU wide receiver Phil Braxton.
Detractors of this viewpoint might point to the fact that Dunlap isn't the defensive coordinator, and as such won't have control of the defensive gameplan. That's true, but it's also true that Syracuse has a veteran and respected coaching staff that is sure to give Dunlap's thoughts top priority.
West Virginia's offense, which depends heavily on timing and crisp execution, took another step forward on Saturday, albeit against Rutgers. How much of that timing will be lost with the absence of Braxton?
The thought here is that it will have an effect. Shawn Terry will be playing a new position, and although the "X" and "Z" wide receivers are pretty much identical, he'll still have to remember which spot he's playing and run the correct route or block the correct opponent. That can be easier said than done - it's easy to lose track in the heat of the battle.
The same problems could exist on the offensive line, where Brad Knell might have to flop to the other side of the line if Ken Sandor and Jason Brooks are unable to play. There's no doubt that Knell has the ability, like Terry, to perform the switch. Changes like these, however, can affect the cohesiveness and continuity of the entire unit.
As head coach Rich Rodriguez has said, the offense doesn't really start to click until everyone is executing their assignments naturally, without having to think about them. That level of execution might be hard to obtain on Saturday.