In a one word answer to the headline: Excitement.
Last night we learned the matchup for the Syracuse Orange’s bowl game, and it is quite the familiar foe. The West Virginia Mountaineers, formerly of the Big East but now out of the Big XII, will head to the big apple to face the Orange on December 29 at Yankee Stadium. Syracuse played in the inaugural pinstripe bowl game, where they defeated the Kansas State Wildcats 36-34 in a game full of trick plays, offense, and controversy.
When Syracuse pulled that game out in 2010, fan expectation skyrocketed for the following season. The Dome was packed and crowded for the season opener in 2011 against Wake Forest, a game that Syracuse came from behind to win. Doug Marrone’s squad went on to a 5-2 start to the season (including a dominant victory over West Virginia) before collapsing in the second half of the year, losing their final five games. By the end of the season, there was limited interest in the program from the fan base despite playing for a bowl game down to the very last week of the regular season.
So that begs the question: what would a pinstripe bowl victory mean for Syracuse, aside from retaining the Schwartzwalder trophy for the third consecutive year?
I believe that it means a lot. I believe that this game is absolutely critical for Syracuse to build confidence and momentum heading in to the ACC next year. I think that by default we will see bigger crowds in the Carrier Dome next season because of the new conference and new slate of opponents, but I believe that with a win in the Pinstripe Bowl the Orange can gain even more excitement for this program from the fan base. With a win, Syracuse will give the program their second eight win season in three years.
A victory over the Mountaineers would end Syracuse’s season with the team winning 6 out of their last 7 games of the year, with promising talent coming in going forward. The game will undoubtedly be in front of more fans in orange than in yellow, and will be on a national stage where the Orange have shined this year. Syracuse is 5-2 in games broadcast on national television this season, with their two losses being a one point loss to Northwestern, and to a USC team that Syracuse had a chance at the lead with the ball in the fourth quarter. The wins included squeakers against Pittsburgh and Missouri, a convincing win over Temple, and blowouts over Connecticut and Louisville. If the Orange can continue the trend of good play in the national spotlight, recruits will absolutely take notice of a win over West Virginia and the highly regarded Geno Smith.
In the blowout last season in the Carrier Dome, the Orange sacked and hit Smith multiple times throughout the night, forcing him to make some absolutely terrible throws while he appeared to lose confidence in his team. The trend was the same in 2010 on the road against West Virginia, and it appears Doug Marrone and Scott Shafer have a formula to get a lot of pressure against the Mountaineers’ schemes. It will be interesting to see how Smith will respond if Syracuse can put pressure on him yet again, and if he will make the multitude of mistakes that he made in the previous two meetings against the Orange.
If you are on the fence about going to this game, I urge you to go. Bus packages are more than affordable, and it is a one day affair. I have been to a lot of different events for Syracuse including Mike Powell’s final game winning the 2004 national championship against Navy in lacrosse, Big East tournament games in Madison Square Garden, and have had season tickets for both football and basketball for years, and I can tell you that the Pinstripe Bowl in 2010 is up there as one of my best memories as a Syracuse fan for any sport. As they become available, I will list the different bus packages, as well as any tailgating spots for the game that I become aware of.