Dec. 29, 3:15 p.m., Bronx, N.Y. (ESPN)
West Virginia take by Big 12 blogger David Ubben: Bowl matchups love to produce ready-made storylines, and you’ll find plenty of interesting ones in Yankee Stadium on Dec. 29 for the Pinstripe Bowl. West Virginia won’t renew its Backyard Brawl rivalry with Pitt, and it won’t earn a BCS bid that looked possible with a season that began with five consecutive wins, but it will get a chance for redemption.
WVU suffered an embarrassing loss to Syracuse last season on the way to the Big East title, and the Mountaineers will encounter their old buds in the Big East once again in the Bronx. Geno Smith has never beaten the Orange, but he’ll get one last chance in his final game as a Mountaineer.
Smith won’t win the Heisman, but he’ll lead the nation’s No. 8 offense along with Biletnikoff finalist Stedman Bailey and all-purpose superstar Tavon Austin. Austin nearly broke the NCAA record for all-purpose yardage with 572 yards against Oklahoma, highlighted by 344 rushing yards. The Mountaineers made waves in their Orange Bowl blowout win in Year 1 under Dana Holgorsen, but a leaky defense proved to be their downfall in a Big 12 well-stocked with powerful offenses.
Syracuse will offer another test for the WVU defense. The Orange led the Big East in total offense by more than 40 yards per game and boast a 3,500-yard passer in Ryan Nassib and a 1,000-yard rusher in Jerome Smith. Can WVU’s defense get some redemption in its final outing of the season?
Syracuse take by Big East blogger Andrea Adelson: When the Orange started the season 2-4, their bowl prospects looked extremely dim. Though quarterback Ryan Nassib had put up some big numbers, the Orange had a major turnover and penalty problem. Coach Doug Marrone called himself out, saying all the mistakes were on him.
Well, whatever introspection he did -- and whatever he said to his team -- worked.
Syracuse closed the year with five wins in its final six games -- including a surprising 45-26 victory over then-No. 9 Louisville -- to claim a share of its first Big East title since 2004. Here is all you need to know about the dramatic difference in turnover margin.
In the first six games of the season, Syracuse won the turnover battle once -- and won only two games. In the final six games of the season, Syracuse won the turnover battle five times. The Orange won five games. It also is no coincidence that the Syracuse run game got going in the second half of the season--– Jerome Smith had four 100-yard games and finished with 1,000 yards on the season.
Interestingly enough, the brutal nonconference schedule this team played ended up helping it find a way to win at the end of the year. Syracuse started the year with losses to USC, Northwestern and Minnesota. But late in the season, the Orange went on the road and upset Missouri -- truly understanding what it would take to win.
In the end, Nassib led the Big East in passing with a career-high 3,619 yards, tossing 24 touchdowns to nine interceptions. Alec Lemon had a career-high 1,063 yards, and Syracuse ended up with its first 1,000-yard running back and 1,000-yard receiver since Michael Owens and Rob Moore in 1989.