Syracuse‘s year certainly started rough — a 2-4 start that appeared to be spiraling into another disappointing season for the Orange after last year’s 5-7 campaign — until they wrapped up on a hot streak that saw them win five of their final six wins, and capture a share of the Big East title. West Virginia, on the other hand, shot out of the gate at 5-0, and had a national championship on their minds. A few months later, they’re 7-5 and playing in one of the Big 12’s lesser bowls. So who’s got the upper hand in this rivalry renewal (despite the Schwartzwalder Trophy’s absence)?
Bowl Game: New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Location: Bronx, N.Y.
First Year: 2010
2012 Participants: Syracuse Orange (7-5) vs. West Virginia Mountaineers (7-5)
Last Meeting: Syracuse over West Virginia, 49-23 (2011)
Syracuse (previous bowl game: 36-34 win vs. Kansas State in 2010 Pinstripe Bowl)
Dynamic. Disappointing. Surprising. Frustrating… any or all of these adjectives apply to Syracuse football during a 2012 season that saw them both struggle and succeed in spurts. The passing game, behind senior quarterback Ryan Nassib, put up some of the best numbers in team history: 301.6 yards per game through the air, which would rank them 21st in the entire country. While the defense could never truly gain its footing from week to week, the group still allowed just 25.7 points per game (good for 52nd in the FBS), though it admittedly struggled against both mobile quarterbacks and the passing game in general (21 passing TDs allowed). The bright side for them, however, is that they also thrived in high-scoring situations. Six different times they scored 30 or more points, and in five of those instances, they were victorious. Syracuse knew how to play close to the vest too, with a 3-3 record in games decided by a score or less (including two straight victories in such games — October 27 vs. USF and November 17 at Missouri). Against a West Virginia team that can throw with the best of them, while failing to stop anyone in the same breath, it’s hard to see this as anything but a strength. The Orange defense will need to find some consistent pass-rushing from the defensive front, and lock down receivers on deep routes (a struggle all season). But if they can’t, SU’s offense has shown it can beat teams through both the running and passing games, respectively, piling up over 250 yards on the ground in two of their last three games.