New Era Pinstripe Bowl Preview: Syracuse Orange vs. West Virginia Mountaineers

Syracuse and West Virginia Have Two of the Country's Best Passing Attacks, But Which Will Prevail?

Syracuse and West Virginia Have Two of the Country’s Best Passing Attacks, But Which Will Prevail?

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)

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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.

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ACC Bowl Matchups: Keys to Success

Will Andre Ellington and the Clemson Run Game Be the Key to the Tigers' Bowl Success?

Will Andre Ellington and the Clemson Run Game Be the Keys to the Tigers’ Bowl Success?

We’ll be previewing each ACC bowl matchup individually as the games get closer, but for now, it’s worth at least taking a top-level look. Once again, the ACC’s up against a pretty formidable group of opponents, but all isn’t lost just yet.

Below, you’ll find the keys to each game laid out, along with the easiest path for the respective ACC teams to find success. Obviously, none of these are guaranteed results, and there’s still plenty more left to discuss (and we will as December wears on).

Keys to Success

Belk Bowl (Duke vs. Cincinnati): For Duke, it’s all about executing their passing game against a Cincinnati defense that will be reeling without head coach Butch Jones in the picture. The Bearcats, while very formidable on defense overall, ranked just 73rd in the FBS in passing yards allowed per game (243.5). They got by, however, forcing turnovers in the passing game, and buckling down in the red zone. Cincinnati’s defense allowed just 11 passing scores, compared to 14 picks. If Duke can avoid errors while throwing the football, and live up to their 32nd overall ranking in that department, they can find a clear path to victory.

Russell Athletic Bowl (Virginia Tech vs. Rutgers): The best way to beat Rutgers is by controlling the pace of the game; something Tech has struggled with significantly this entire season. For as well as that defense has played this year, the offense has been another story. Hokies quarterback Logan Thomas will be relied upon to lead a brisk attack and make the Scarlet Knights play from behind. Virginia Tech was also 4-1 when scoring 30 or more points this year, while Rutgers was 0-1 in the only contest where their opponents reached that mark.

New Era Pinstripe Bowl (Syracuse vs. West Virginia): While Syracuse has benefited from a torrid pace in many of their wins this year, the key this time around will be generating a significant pass rush to pressure WVU quarterback Geno Smith. As the second half of the Mountaineers season and last year’s SU/WVU game proved, Smith still struggles when forced to deliver a quick ball under duress. If Syracuse allows him to stand and deliver to Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin all game, the Orange are certain to lose. But if SU’s Brandon Sharpe and Jay Bromley can put heat on Smith, that’s when the mistakes begin.

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Discover Orange Bowl Recap: West Virginia over Clemson, 70-33

Geno Smith Powered West Virginia to a Huge 70-33 Win Over Clemson in the Orange Bowl

What Happened: One of the biggest embarrassments in bowl game history, for starters. Already out of the game by halftime, the Clemson Tigers fell in a fashion never seen before in a BCS game, 70-33 to the West Virginia Mountaineers, in the Discover Orange Bowl. The Mountaineers, who had scored 75 points total in their previous three games, racked up nearly 600 offensive yards against Clemson’s historically porous defense in this one. WVU Quarterback Geno Smith tied a bowl record with six touchdown passes and the team also set a new record for points in a postseason game. Leading just 28-20 with five minutes to go in the first half, West Virginia delivered an early knockout blow, with three touchdowns to close out the period. Their first-half output alone eclipsed the total points scored in yesterday’s Sugar Bowl. Most damning for Clemson is that it could have been so much worse had their opponent not taken their foot off the gas by late in the third.

Who’s to Blame: Pretty much anyone associated with the Clemson football team, honestly. West Virginia was a good team this season, but not stellar by any stretch of the imagination — and surely not the worldbeaters we saw tonight. Head coach Dabo Swinney did not have his defense prepared for the speed at which the Mountaineers could score, and he still has yet to differentiate the offense. In this contest specifically, running back Andre Ellington was moving the ball very well (10 carries for 116 yards), but then everything switched gears to quarterback Tajh Boyd. Failing to connect with his receivers (star Sammy Watkins recorded just five catches for 66 yards and a score), the offense stalled, along with Clemson’s chances during the wild second quarter in which WVU scored 35 points. Continue reading