Chip Shots

by Jim Buzzerd

Let’s go camping

You haven’t heard it from West Virginia University head football coach Dana Holgorsen or any of his players, but WVU fans on social media were a bit upset Sunday when the Mountaineers were invited to the Camping World Bowl in Orlando on December 28. West Virginia will face long time rival Syracuse at 5:15 p.m.

This year’s Camping World Bowl will be the 61st all-time meeting between the former Big East rivals. Syracuse comes into the game holding a 33-27 edge in the series, including a 38-14 victory in the 2012 Pinstripe Bowl, the last meeting between the Orange and Mountaineers.

The fan unrest stems from the Alamo Bowl’s decision to bypass the Mountaineers for Iowa State. When Oklahoma was assured a spot in the College Football Playoff, WVU fans as well as many in the national media projected a matchup between WVU and Dana Holgorsen and Washington State and Holgorsen’s mentor, Mike Leach in the Alamo Bowl.
While the Holgorsen-Leach angle would seem to be a pretty good sell, it appears that it was Iowa State’s ability to sell nearly 40,000 tickets to last season’s Liberty Bowl that carried the day for the Cyclones. Ironically a well travelling fan base was once the Mountaineers’ calling card, but that passionate following seems to have waned in recent bowl games. In defense of the WVU fans, dates and locations of several recent bowls haven’t exactly inspired the fan base.

There seemed to be a great deal of interest among the WVU faithful for the Alamo Bowl though. It offered a new destination to San Antonio and the matchup with Leach’s Cougars. Just a guess here, but the ISU fans will likely sell more tickets than WVU would have; of course that is pure speculation.  Based on the proximity of the schools and the bowls, WVU to Orlando makes sense, because of the number of Mountaineer fans who can drive to the game.
The above has been written with no idea whether or not the athletic department at WVU lobbied for an Alamo bid. That info may leak at some point and the other factor out there is there is a lot of chatter suggesting quarterback Will Grier may opt to not play in the bowl game and not risk injury prior to the upcoming NFL draft. Holgorsen said Sunday he doesn’t know what Grier is going to do. Read into that what you want, but I’m thinking the coach has a pretty good idea where his quarterback’s head is.

Is it possible the Alamo Bowl wanted some assurance that Grier would be playing in their game before issuing their invitation? That possibly could have played against West Virginia in the selection process. I’ve been watching the online debates among WVU fans as to whether Grier should play in the bowl game or not. A surprising number not only support a decision to not play, but many suggest he do just that. Many are ready to see backup Jack Allison play the game and move to the future.

If Grier does play in the bowl it won’t be as a Heisman finalist. On Monday quarterbacks Dwayne Haskins of Ohio State, Kyler Murray of Oklahoma and Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa were announced as the three players invited to attend the Heisman Trophy awards ceremony this Saturday. Grier had the statistics to be among those three; especially Haskins, but one of the unwritten rules voters tend to implement into their voting is the won-loss record of the contender’s team. Back to back losses doomed Grier and the Mountaineers for that matter.