West Virginia (10-2) vs Miami FL (8-4)
When: Wednesday, December 28th 2016
Where: Camping World Stadium, Orlando, FL
Time: 5:30 ET | TV: ESPN
Former Big East foes meet in this year’s Russell Athletic Bowl as the West Virginia Mountaineers battle the Miami Hurricanes from Orlando, Florida on December 28th. West Virginia rebounded from an embarrassing 56-28 loss to Oklahoma by beating Iowa State and Baylor in their final two contests to finish 7-2 in the Big 12. The Mountaineers’ outstanding regular season has already resulted in coach Dana Holgorsen getting a five-year contract extension, and they have the opportunity to possibly finish ranked in the top 10. The Mountaineers rank No. 12 in FBS in total offense (506.9 yards per game) with a balanced attack behind quarterback Skyler Howard (3,194 yards passing, 60.8%, 26 TD passes) and a backfield led by Justin Crawford (1,168 yards, 7.4 yards per carry, four TDs) that had four different players rush for more than 100 yards in a game. Howard, who is also a running threat, has a trio of talented receivers in Daikiel Shorts Jr. (58 receptions, 833 yards), Ka’Raun White (48, 583) and speedster Shelton Gibson (40, 927, 23.2 yards per reception). West Virginia’s physical offensive line is anchored by All-American center Tyler Orlosky. All-American senior cornerback Rasul Douglas, who had eight of the team’s 14 interceptions, is the leader of a unit that ranked 79th in FBS in total defense in the offensive-minded Big 12.
The Hurricanes also finished on a high-note after suffering a four-game losing streak in the middle of the season that included tough losses to both Florida State and Notre Dame. Miami hasn’t won a bowl game in a decade and is looking to build momentum for the future as it attempts to regain its past glory under first-year head coach Mark Richt, a former Hurricanes quarterback. Quarterback Brad Kaaya (3,250 yards, 61.2%, 23 touchdowns) played his best at the end of the season when he benefited from improved protection from his line. He has a pair of weapons in explosive freshman wide receiver Ahmmon Richards (46 receptions, 866 yards, 18.8 yards per reception) and the improved play of tight end David Njoku (38, 654, 17.2), who caught seven TD passes. The offensive line’s re-emergence after being dominated during the losing streak also helped running back Mark Walton (1,065 yards, 5.5 yards per carry, 14 TDs) and Joe Yearby (592, 6.0) provide balance in the final four victories. Miami’s freshman-led front seven, keyed a defense that allowed only 18.9 points per game. Defensive end Joe Jackson (7.5 sacks) and linebacker Shaq Quarterman (nine tackles for loss) lead the line, and the secondary is led by senior cornerback Corn Elder. Miami’s defense held nine opponents to 21 points or fewer.
This should be one of the more exciting Bowl games as both teams are motivated to be here. I think West Virginia will have enough on offense to penetrate the tough Miami defense and come away with a victory.
Pick: West Virginia +2.5