For the first time in over a month, the Syracuse football team will take on the West Virginia Mountaineers in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. Kickoff is set for 3:15 from Yankee Stadium, and will be broadcast on ESPN.
Syracuse is all too familiar with West Virginia, as the two teams have played every season for the past 57 years. This game really comes down to a question if the Syracuse defense can (somewhat) contain Mountaineer quarterback Geno Smith in the passing game. Syracuse has won in each of the last two seasons against West Virginia, with the Orange defense putting pressure on Smith constantly, forcing him in to interceptions and sacks all throughout the games. However, Smith has thrown for forty touchdowns and only six interceptions on the year, so this will be a daunting task for Syracuse.
If that weren’t difficult enough, the Orange secondary are going to have their hands full with a receiving core that consists of multiple playmakers. The Mountaineers have a dangerous duo of deep threats in junior Stedman Bailey and senior Tavon Austin. The two have combined for 35 of the team’s 42 touchdowns in the passing game, and Syracuse will have to limit their productivity if they are going to win.
Fortunately for the Orange is the fact that they have a deep pool of play makers as well. With a month to prepare, I would look for Ryan Nassib to have a tremendous game in his last outing in a Syracuse uniform. To put it nicely the West Virginia defense has struggled all season long, so an explosive Syracuse offense should be able to put up big numbers as they have all season long. If Syracuse can establish a solid running game to compliment the passing game to Alec Lemon and Marcus Sales, the Orange will put up extremely high numbers offensively.
The vibe around the West Virginia fan base is one of cockiness, with a feeling from their side that it will be disappointing if WVU doesn’t blow the doors off Syracuse. While I think West Virginia is a good team, I have absolutely no understanding as to where this mentality comes from. West Virginia started the season off 5-0, but looking back on those games their wins really aren’t as impressive as they seemed at the time they occurred. Their most impressive performance of the season was probably their offense in a loss to a good Oklahoma team, but have losses of 49-14, 55-14, and 55-34 in their five game losing streak.
I think it will be very interesting to see what the fan turnout will be for both sides. Syracuse always travels well to New York City, but was heavily outnumbered in their “home” game against USC at Metlife Stadium earlier this season. West Virginia fans travel relatively well, so it should be very interesting to get a feel of the atmosphere inside the stadium for tomorrow.
Another interesting thing to see will be the weather. The forecast is calling for cold temperatures with 3-5 inches of snow, and it should be interesting to see how the two teams adjust to the conditions. I think that if the conditions are sloppy, it would favor Syracuse more due to the fact that they have a superior running game to the Mountaineers.
This game will really come down to which team can make less mistakes. If the Orange can force Geno Smith in to some mistakes, then they could be in great shape to win their second Pinstripe Bowl in three seasons.
I’ll be heading down to the game tomorrow morning on a bus, so be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook, as I will be posting all kinds of fun things throughout the day. Be sure to tweet me during the game for some live updates throughout the afternoon from Yankee Stadium! Here is our Facebook, and here is our Twitter. Let’s go Orange!