The folks over at ESPN Stats & Information do an incredible job digging deeper to unearth very cool and interesting news and notes every week during the season.
Bowl season is no different.
With that, I present to you some of the notes they provided us on the New Era Pinstripe Bowl between Syracuse and West Virginia. Enjoy!
First, start with Geno Smith. In seven wins this season, Smith completed 65.9 percent of his passes thrown 15 yards or longer, including 10 touchdowns. In five losses, he completed less than a quarter of his 15-yard throws and was off target (overthrown, underthrown or wide) on half of his attempts.
How does this correlate to Syracuse? The Orange have allowed their opponents to complete 39.1 percent of their passes of 15 yards or longer. That ranks 25th among 68 schools from automatic qualifying conferences.
Now onto Smith and his previous performances against the Orange. Smith is 0-2 as a starter. In both starts, Smith completed less than 60 percent of his passes and threw at least two interceptions. Added defensive pressure was a big reason why Smith struggled. He completed 45 percent of his passes and had three interceptions when the Orange sent five or more pass-rushers. That matches Smith’s interception total against the blitz in his 36 other games as a starter.
As for the West Virginia defense, most everybody is familiar with its struggles this season. The Mountaineers have allowed 63 completions of 20 yards or longer in 2012, the most in a season in the past four years. Syracuse led the Big East with 49 completions of 20-plus yards and has at least one such completion in every game this season. That sounds like a huge advantage for Alec Lemon, Marcus Sales and Ryan Nassib.
One other player to keep an eye on is tight end Beckett Wales. Last year, West Virginia had a difficult time slowing down Nick Provo, who ended up with three touchdown catches and 61 yards. Wales has emerged as a go-to player at tight end this year, with 32 catches for 350 yards and a score. His 32 catches rank fourth on the Syracuse single-season receptions list for tight ends.