Its that time of the week again! Time for Big League Clew to break down this week’s College Football Rivalry Trophy Series. Who will he have for us this week?
This weekend, we have probably one of the more forgotten rivalries in the nation coming your way. First and foremost, let me say that I know that this weekend is the Norte Dame/Southern Cal game at Notre Dame stadium. However, I feel that everyone will be talking about that, so I will be discussing something just as old school, but not nearly as mentioned. This game is Friday night in Syracuse, NY, when the Syracuse Orange and the Mountaineers of West Virginia square off in the battle for the Schwartzwalder Trophy.
#11 West Virginia Mountaineers @ Syracuse Orange – Friday, 10/21 @8 P.M. on ESPN
Last year’s results: Syracuse defeated West Virginia 19-14 (Syracuse leads overall series 31-27, WVA holds the trophy record at 11-7)
One of the biggest and oldest rivalries in the Big East, this traditional match up has been taking place since the 1950s. The Ben Schwartzwalder Trophy, named after former WVU football coach and legendary Syracuse head coach Ben Schwartzwalder, goes to the winner of this game every year. For those people who do not know who Ben Schwartzwalder is, Floyd B. “Ben” Schwartzwalder was a Hall of Fame coach at Syracuse University from 1949 to 1973, where he had the pleasure of coaching future National Football League running backs Jim Brown, Heisman Trophy winner Ernie Davis, and All-American RBs Floyd Little and Larry Csonka. Schwartzwalder was also an alumnus of West Virginia University where, despite weighing only 146 pounds, he started at center for the football team, and was even an all-campus wrestler in 1930. He compiled a 152-91-3 record while coaching at Syracuse, his best season coming in 1959 when Syracuse went undefeted and won the National Championship, thanks to the help of sophomore RB Ernie Davis. This remains Syracuse’s only national football title in football to date.
Anyways, getting back to the rivalry, the trophy was introduced in 1993 after the death of Coach Ben Schwartzwalder. Syracuse leads the overall record of the series 31-27, however West Virginia has won the trophy 11 times to Syracuse’s 7. During the 2000s, the rivalry has taken a backseat to other rivalries in college football due to the lackluster programs that came out of Syracuse from 2002 to 2009. Yet, in the late 80s and 90s, Syracuse and West Virginia were locked in yearly battles to be the best team in the Northeast. This game almost always meant something, whether it was for a Big East title, bowl positioning (2 point conversion game in 1987, Marvin Graves QB brawl) or bragging rights. Would you expect anything less from a rivalry that started in 1955?
Gone are the days, however, where West Virginia students and players considered Syracuse a rival. No longer do West Virginia fans hurl trash, food, and racial slurs at us Syracuse fans. Nowadays, the only thing they do is look at the teams that Syracuse has put together over the past 10 years and show pity. Now, with reemergent Syracuse Football program under 3rd year Coach Doug Marrone, the Orange look to make this rivalry noteworthy again. In 2010, the Orange went into Morgantown and pulled off a major upset over West Virginia 19-14, giving the trophy back to Syracuse for the first time since 2001. Now, Syracuse will host WV at the Carrier Dome and look to win back-to-back games against their rival for the first time since 2000-2001.
Player watch: West Virginia – QB Geno Smith (2159 yards passing, 16 TDs, 3 INTs) WR Stedman Bailey (34 catches, 634 yards receiving, 5 TDs). Syracuse – QB Ryan Nassib (1294 yards passing, 11 TDs, 4 INTS) RB Antwon Bailey (553 yards rushing, 5 TDs) WRs Alec Lemon (31 catches, 322 yards, 3TDS) & Van Chew (20 catches, 299 yards, 3TDS)
Predictions: West Virginia is ranked 4th in the country in passing (thanks to Geno Smith) and 13th in points scored, but they have only played one legitimate team this season — #2 Ranked LSU. Syracuse is a middle of the road team trying to rebuild a program that has not had back to back winning seasons in ten years. Obviously West Virginia is the favorite to beat Syracuse this season,but that was the case last year and they lost! Also, Syracuse has won three out of their four home games this season (two of them in OT). So I will put my 3-0 rivalry trophy record on the line and say that I feel that the Orange have what it takes to hang with the Mountaineers and pull off another upset, this time in their house. Syracuse wins!
Here’s the video of that infamous 1987 game:
Trophy image courtesy of: http://bigeastblog.files.wordpress.com/
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