In a renewal of a long-time East Coast college football rivalry the 7-5 Syracuse Orange meet up with the 7-5 West Virginia Mountaineers in the Pinstripe Bowl Saturday, Dec. 29 at Yankee Stadium in New York (3:15 pm ET, ESPN). As of early this week most sportsbooks were listing West Virginia as a 3.5-point favorite on their Pinstripe Bowl betting odds.
Syracuse, riding a 3-1 ATS in its past four bowl games, was expected to finish somewhere near the bottom in the Big East this season. Instead, the Orange tied for first place. But it took them a little while to get warmed up. Syracuse opened this season 1-3, with tough losses to Northwestern, USC and Minnesota.
But after another tough loss, at Rutgers, the Orange won five of their last six games, finishing with an upset of previously undefeated Louisville and road victories at Missouri and at Temple.
So Syracuse finished 5-2 and as part of a four-way tie for first place in the Big East, although they missed out on the conference's BCS bid because of tie-breakers.
Led by QB Ryan Nassib, who threw for 3,600 yards and 24 touchdowns this season, RB Jerome Smith, who ran for 1,000 yards, and WR Alec Lemon, who caught 70 balls for 1,000 yards, Syracuse averaged 473 YPG on offense. Defensively, the Orange allowed 385 YPG.
West Virginia, in its first season as a member of the Big 12 Conference this season, was picked by most "experts" to finish somewhere around fourth or fifth in the conference standings. Then, led by QB Geno Smith, the Mountaineers started 5-0, with wins over Baylor and Texas, reaching No. 5 in the rankings.
But West Virginia then lost its next five games, as the defense got gouged for 49, 55, 39, 55 and 50 points. The Mountaineers then salvaged a bowl bid by completing their regular season with victories over Iowa State and Kansas, finishing at 4-5 in Big 12 play.
Powered by Smith, who threw for 4,000 yards and an FBS-best 40 touchdowns this season, and WRs Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin, who both topped 100 catches and 1,200 yards receiving, West Virginia averaged 519 YPG on offense and 42 PPG. Defensively, though, the Mountaineers gave up 470 YPG.
These two teams have met every season since 1955. West Virginia had won eight in a row in this series, but Syracuse has won the last two meetings. Last year the 'Cuse shocked the Mountaineers 49-23, winning outright as 14-point dogs.
Syracuse missed playing in a bowl last year. Two years ago the Orange outlasted Kansas State 36-34 in the Pinstripe Bowl. West Virginia is playing in a bowl for the 11th straight season. Last year the Mountaineers bombed Clemson 70-33 in the Orange Bowl.
Pinstripe Bowl Pick: West Virginia was 5-0, then went 2-5; Syracuse started 2-4, then went 5-1. We'll take the team that finished better, and go with the Orange. (courtesy of PickShark.com)
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