MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – For West Virginia fans, there is a growing sense of frustration over the Mountaineers’ inability to win a conference title since moving to the Big 12 in 2012.

But frustration is a more enjoyable emotion than whatever Syracuse fans have felt since moving to the ACC when the Big East folded in 2013 – although that despair is rapidly transforming into something far better.

For the Orange, a trip to the Camping World Bowl marks a major step forward for a program that was initially left a step behind after the great collegiate conference reshuffle.

Dino Babers is Syracuse’s third head coach since the Orange last faced West Virginia in the 2012 Pinstripe Bowl. Babers replaced Scott Shafer, who took over when Doug Marrone was hired by the Buffalo Bills after merely finishing .500 in his four years at Syracuse.

Going into this season, the Orange were 22-39 with one bowl appearance in the five seasons that passed since beating the Mountaineers in the Pinstripe Bowl. In contrast, Dana Holgorsen and West Virginia went 36-28 in the same stretch, making four bowl appearances.

“You guys go bowling all the time, but this is new ground for us,” Babers said. “I just have to make sure it’s not like the first day of school where they’re so excited by the new surroundings that they don’t forget that they do have a fantastic West Virginia football team to get ready for.”

Syracuse was in a state of disrepair when Babers took over in 2016, trying to reinvigorate the program with the Air Raid offense he mastered at Eastern Illinois with the help of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

“Me and Dino go way back. We’ve known each other a long time, growing up in the Air Raid system and going to clinics,” said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, who will be facing Babers for the first time. “He’s had unbelievable success running that type of system as a head coach. I’m very familiar with what they do.”

Despite a talent disparity, the Orange picked up signature wins over ranked teams in each of Babers’ first two seasons – over No. 17 Virginia Tech in Year 1, and No. 2 Clemson last season. But those were merely blips in back-to-back 4-8 seasons. Now the Orange have found consistency, and with it comes a shot at the program’s first 10-win season since 2001.

“This is an exciting season for us, bouncing back from a period of losing in our football family as a winner,” Babers said. “We’re really excited about the opportunity.”

Records since 2013

2013

Syracuse: 7-6 (4-4 ACC, won in Texas Bowl)

West Virginia: 4-8 (2-7 Big 12)

2014

Syracuse: 3-9 (1-7 ACC)

West Virginia: 7-6 (5-4 Big 12, lost in Liberty Bowl)

2015

Syracuse: 4-8 (2-6 ACC)

West Virginia: 8-5 (4-5 Big 12, won in Cactus Bowl)

2016

Syracuse: 4-8 (2-6 ACC)

West Virginia: 10-3 (7-2 Big 12, lost in Russell Athletic Bowl)

2017

Syracuse: 4-8 (2-6 ACC)

West Virginia: 7-6 (5-4 Big 12, lost in Heart of Dallas Bowl)

2018

Syracuse: 9-3 (6-2 ACC)

West Virginia: 8-3 (6-3 Big 12)

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