So that noise you heard Sunday afternoon was the collective groan of disappointment as Mountaineer Nation learned that WVU had received a bid to the Camping World Bowl in Orlando. The letdown is not about the bowl itself—I’ll get to that in a moment—but more about the bowls the Mountaineers are not playing in.
The late season losses to Oklahoma State and Oklahoma (and earlier in the season loss to Iowa State) kept West Virginia out of multiple options; the conference championship game, the final four, the Sugar Bowl and the Alamo Bowl. That’s a long way to fall in just a couple of weeks.
My cohort Brad Howe is sorely disappointed, as you can see in this latest edition of Three Guys Before the Game. For Howe and thousands of Mountaineer faithful, the 2018 season will always be about what might have been.
There’s no arguing that. However, once the pall passes—if it ever passes—here are six positives about the game.
The first is the opponent. West Virginia has had a long and sometimes bitter rivalry with Syracuse. The Orange holds a 33-27 advantage in the games that date back to 1945. The WVU coaching staff should produce a video of the greatest moments over the years.
In one of the more infamous games in 1992 Syracuse quarterback Marvin Graves popped defensive back Tommy Orr on the helmet with the football for what Graves thought was a late hit. A fight followed that led to three key West Virginia players and one Syracuse bench warmer being kicked out in the waning minutes. Syracuse went on to win the game.
Second, the game is driveable. Okay, it’s a long drive—about 900 miles—but you can get there. By comparison, San Antonio is 1,500 miles away. Additionally, there are already many West Virginians who have retired to Florida. After North Carolina, Florida is a natural destination for West Virginians.
Third, Friday, December 28 is a good date—after Christmas and before New Year’s. It’s also heading into the long New Year’s weekend so it will be easier for fans to get time off to make the trip.
Fourth, it’s Florida in the winter and Orlando is among the top global tourist destinations because of Disney World. You know Mountaineer fans are going to wear their team colors so they can spot each other at the Magic Kingdom.
Fifth, both WVU and Syracuse are averaging 40 points a game. The match-up has the possibility of being a high scoring and entertaining game between two old rivals.
Sixth, come on, it’s the Camping World Bowl! The sponsor is a natural for West Virginians who love to take to the road in an RV, popup camper or with just a tent and a cooler. We have more in common with camping than with the Alamo! (Yes, this one’s a stretch, but I promised six.)
So, it’s appropriate for Mountaineer Nation to fume for awhile over what might have been, but as we get closer to the 28th, there will also be plenty of reasons to learn to love the game.