Let's go bowling. #BeatWVU
Syracuse had a rough go in some of their early games, but finishing strong on the year put them at 7-5 and back in the Pinstripe Bowl in Yankee Stadium. Below will be my standard preview, followed by John chiming in on the football preview spectrum. Then I'll have some closing words and send you on your way to enjoy the game wherever you happen to find yourself tomorrow.
The Orange and the Mountaineers of West Virginia are no strangers to each other. They have played an awful lot over then years and then as conference mates in the Big East. But the changing landscape of college football and athletics has put them at odds with one another in the postseason. Oddly, the numbers for both teams offensively and for both quarterbacks are similar in terms of yards gained and production per game. Even the stud wide receiver duos of Tavon Austin/Stedman Bailey and Marcus Sales/Alec Lemon have similar numbers on the year. Honestly, the only offensive numbers that are radically different are Geno Smith's 40 touchdowns versus Ryan Nassib's 29. We know both quarterbacks can throw the ball well. This is not in dispute. However, on the other side of the ball, both defenses are not as good as their offensive counterparts. However, the difference in these teams is really found in the passing defense. West Virginia ranks next to last in the nation at passing defense, giving up 328.3 passing yards per game and a total of 36 passing touchdowns. Compare that to Syracuse, who only allows 236.9 passing yards per game and 21 passing TDs. Either way, this game will be won by Syracuse if they can establish an offense that moves the ball and doesn't commit turnovers. Syracuse has a slightly better rushing attack and if they can sustain long drives, it will put them in a position to wear out the WVU defense quicker and allow for more passing opportunities later in the game. Syracuse, in the previous two meetings, have found ways to attack Smith, sacking him numerous times. Syracuse will need to do that again, making it easier on the SU secondary, and harder for Geno to gain big yards through the air. This game is basically a coin flip at this point. I'll rely on the recent history between these teams, and the pro-Syracuse crowd in the stands, as well as Syracuse's performance in the last Pinstripe Bowl to guide my decision here. I'm picking the Orange in a close one 41 to 38.
John Brennan's Preview
Before I get to my analysis of what Syracuse needs to do to win the game, I want to focus on a few parallels to 2010:
- In 2010, Syracuse finished the regular season at 7-5.
- In 2012, Syracuse finished the regular season at 7-5.
- In 2010, the San Francisco Giants (my favorite baseball team) won the World Series.
- In 2012, the San Francisco Giants (still my favorite baseball team) won the World Series.
- In 2010, every seat in the House of Representatives and one-third of the seats in the Senate was up for election.
- In 2012, every seat in the House of Representatives and one-third of the seats in the Senate was up for election.
- In 2010, Syracuse was selected by the Pinstripe Bowl to be the game's representative from the Big East.
- In 2012, Syracuse was selected by the Pinstripe Bowl to be the game's representative from the Big East.
- In 2010, a major snowstorm struck the northeast in the days leading up to the Pinstripe Bowl, forcing snow to be plowed from the field at Yankee Stadium.
- In 2012, a major snowstorm struck the northeast in the days leading up to the Pinstripe Bowl, forcing snow to be plowed from the field at Yankee Stadium.
- In 2010, Syracuse won the Pinstripe Bowl.
Anyway, onto the game. Unlike most bowl match-ups where two teams from different conferences that know little to nothing about each other play, Syracuse and West Virginia have a history. An annual history. To the point that the annual winner took the Schwartzwalder Trophy* (not this time). Bottom line is, these two teams know each other. The Mountaineers know Ryan Nassib, and the Orange know Geno Smith. Thing is, Syracuse beat WVU the last couple times out. I know, personnel change; coaches change; schemes change. But that's no different than what these two teams would deal with prepping for their annual conference tilt. This year's WVU squad features a high-powered offense and a porous defense. Those are clearly the strengths and weaknesses, respectively, for this Mountaineer team. Syracuse in 2012 has featured a more balanced attack, with no one squad consistently dominating but rather the team just finding ways to win games. Of note is West Virginia's center being out for this game for academic reasons. Syracuse has some suspensions of its own, but I think those are in areas where others can pick up the slack. Geno Smith needs clean snaps in order to be effective, especially given the weather forecast of mid-30s with snow. If Syracuse can exploit that, create some turnovers, and limit Mountaineer offensive possessions that result in scores, then the Orange has a good chance in this game. If I'm Doug Marrone, I want the ball first: get out there, pick apart the WVU secondary, and put points on the board. Then go out there and play the defense of your life. If Syracuse can grab the early lead and put Geno & company on their heels, Syracuse has a good chance of winning. Despite the vulnerable WVU secondary, Syracuse must establish a balanced attack on offense and throw in plenty of play action, so the defenders are always guessing. Defensively, Syracuse needs to contain Geno Smith. Easier said than done, and obviously don't get frustrated when he throws for touchdowns; it's gonna happen. But it's all about the pressure, creating turnovers, or field goals instead of touchdowns. In last year's Friday night game in the Dome against West Virginia, Syracuse won, in a blowout. The Pinstripe Bowl won't be a blowout, but I pick Syracuse to win on Brian's 30th birthday 44-35.
In case you missed it earlier, check out the back and forth I had with Chris Sedenka of The Jack Fleming Society here, along with my answers on their site here.
Yes, that's right. Internet rumors are true, this game is being played on my 30th Birthday. While we'll have fun either way, a win would go a long way in ensuring a great time in NYC the entire weekend. Either way, it should be a great game to watch. The game is on ESPN at 3:15pm. So find your seat or your television. I may be dead on Sunday, but we live the dream Saturday. And as always, GO ORANGE!