WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS (7-5)
vs. SYRACUSE ORANGE (7-5)
Pinstripe Bowl - Bronx, NY
Kickoff: Saturday, 3:15 p.m. EDT
Line: West Virginia -3.5, Total: 72.5
Former Big East rivals meet for the 58th consecutive year when West Virginia and Syracuse tussle at Yankee Stadium on Saturday.
These teams have played every year since 1955, with Syracuse holding a 31-26 series advantage during this span, including a 49-23 crushing last year. Orange QB Ryan Nassib scored 5 TD (4 pass, 1 rush) in that win, while West Virginia star QB Geno Smith was held to 304 total yards, 2 TD and 2 INT. Both seniors have put up big numbers in 2012, with Nassib throwing for 302 YPG, 24 TD and 9 INT, while Smith is seventh in the nation in passing efficiency with 4,004 passing yards (334 YPG), 40 TD and just 6 INT. But WVU has the second-worst pass defense in the nation (327 YPG).
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West Virginia will be playing in its 11th straight bowl, destroying Clemson in last year's Orange Bowl, 70-33, behind 407 passing yards and 6 TD from Geno Smith. He's also coming off a monster game against Kansas in the regular-season finale, when he completed 23-of-24 passes for 407 yards and 3 TD in a 59-10 blowout. Although Smith has set all kinds of school records in his career (11,461 pass yds, 96 TD), he has been terrible versus Syracuse, throwing 3 TD and 5 INT while taking nine sacks during two straight defeats in this series. Smith's favorite target is 5-foot-10 WR Stedman Bailey, who leads the nation with 23 TD grabs and gains 125 receiving yards per game. The Mountaineers are also a strong rushing team, averaging 178 rushing YPG on 4.9 YPC. Defensively, WVU continues to struggle mightily, allowing 38.1 PPG (9th-most in FBS) and 470 total YPG.
Syracuse has played outstanding football in the second half of the season, going 5-1 (SU and ATS) including wins over Louisville at home and road victories at South Florida, Missouri and Temple. Nassib's school-record 3,619 passing yards rank 10th in the nation, while his 8.1 YPA is also impressive. Nassib threw for 239 yards and 3 TD in his first Pinstripe Bowl appearance two years ago, a 36-34 victory over Kansas State. Although short-yardage back Adonis Ameen-Moore (5 TD in six game), was suspended for violating team rules, the Orange are still a decent rushing offense, piling up 173 rushing YPG on 4.2 YPC this year. On the defensive side of the ball, LB Marquis Spruill will not play the full four quarters as punishment for getting into an altercation with police on Dec. 2. For the season, Syracuse allows 25.7 PPG and 385 total YPG, limiting opponents to just 148 YPG on the ground (4.1 YPC).