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The Pinstripe Bowl presents an interesting scenario for bettors. As West Virginia was in the Big East just last year, the schools expected their yearly dual to break for the first time since 1955. Instead, it will continue one more year and this time in a bowl game.
The Orange have won two straight games in the matchup including a 49-23 win last season. That was a surprising win considering Syracuse finished with a 5-7 record and that was their only conference win. The Mountaineers will hope to get revenge this time around.
Each team may have a 7-5 record, but it's been very different roads. West Virginia started the season 5-0 and found themselves ranked No. 5 in the nation, only to lose five straight games. They finished out the season with two wins at Iowa State and against Kansas, the two worst teams in the Big 12. Nevertheless, they still have wins against Baylor and at Texas earlier in the season and two games that resulted in one-point losses vs. TCU and Oklahoma. While their defense is terrible, Geno Smith and company can put points on the board.
Syracuse is much in the same vein, with a slightly better defense, but worse offense. They won five of their final six games of the season with their only loss coming at Cincinnati. Their biggest win of the season came against a then-ranked No.9 Louisville team who was 9-0 at the time. The Orange blew out the Cardinals in a 45-26 win that set the table for them as they won their next two games on the road to become bowl eligible. They played solid teams out of conference, yet couldn't pull out any wins. They fought with Northwestern and USC to start the season and then disappointingly lost to Minnesota.
Each team is led by senior quarterbacks aiming to make a final mark on their school's football program. Once a Heisman favorite, Geno Smith will hope to increase his numbers even more by replicating what was done in their bowl game last year when they beat Clemson 70-33. Smith leads the country with 40 passing TDs to go with 4,004 passing yards. To go with Smith's ridiculous numbers, his receivers are in the same line. Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin have combined for 216 receptions, 2,760 yards and 35 touchdowns. Everyone knows who Smith is going to throw to, but they can't be stopped. A different look that the Mountaineers have implemented lately is using Austin more in the running game. His coming out game was against Oklahoma where he had 21 carries for 344 yards and two TDs. Since then, he has 26 carries and 151 rushing yards. With that, their running backs have seen an uptick in production. Shawne Alston averaged 6.8 yards per carry and 130 yards against Iowa State while Andrew Buie had 100 yards and 8.3 yards per carry vs. Kansas.
Syracuse has experience against this offense, but will they be able to stay strong in Smith's final collegiate game? The Orange defense hasn't been all that bad this year, but there aren't any offenses in the Big East that you can compare to West Virginia. When they played USC earlier in the season, Matt Barkley tossed six touchdowns. That's where the Syracuse offense comes in.
They are also led by a senior QB in Ryan Nassib. While he doesn't have the TD count (24) of Smith, he can move the ball just fine with 3,619 yards. In last year's game, it was the other way around as he only had 229 yards, but four touchdowns. In that game, Syracuse ran all over the Mountaineers going for 194 yards. Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley share the load out of the backfield and will likely see the ball plenty to keep Geno Smith off the field as much as possible. The two have combined for 1,636 yards and 10 TDs on the season. Much like WVU, the Orange are led by two wide receivers, Alec Lemon and Marcus Sales. The two have combined for 133 catches for 1,926 yards and 15 touchdowns.
The Mountaineers have not been able to contain any offense as long as they are mediocre, allowing 38 points per game.
When Syracuse wasn't winning this year, they were being competitive. They were in every game they played, which is more than we can say for West Virginia. We like our chances with the Orange here in a game that figures to be back and forth all day long. Syracuse +4