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ABOUT WEST VIRGINIA (7-5, 4-5 Big 12, 5-7 ATS): Smith put up some amazing numbers this season, completing 71.4 percent of his passes and throwing for 4,004 yards with only six interceptions. However, the Mountaineers allowed an average of almost 50 points during a five-game losing streak to derail their season. West Virginia rebounded to win their last two and two of the nation’s top receivers, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, will be looking to put on a show against the Orange. Bailey has caught 106 passes for 1,501 yards and 23 touchdowns this season. Austin has 110 receptions for 1,259 yards and 12 touchdowns, while rushing for 598. Andrew Buie leads the ground attack with 817 yards. West Virginia gave up only 34 points combined in the last two games.
ABOUT SYRACUSE (7-5, 5-2 Big East, 6-5-1 ATS): The Orange turned it on down the stretch, including a big comeback at South Florida and wins over Louisville and Missouri. Syracuse, which finished tied for first in the Big East this season after tying for last in 2011, averaged only 13 points in three games before beating Connecticut 40-10 to start its run. Quarterback Ryan Nassib has 13 touchdown passes and one interception over the last six games after 11 and eight, respectively, the first six. Nassib’s top target is Alec Lemon, who caught 70 passes for 1,063 yards. Marcus Sales has also caught 63 passes for 863 yards. Jerome Smith has 1,019 yards rushing overall and an average of 110.7 the last six. Syracuse has allowed an average of 28.8 points the last five games.
Syracuse, which is slated to make the jump to the ACC in 2013, the team appeared to be headed for a very disappointing campaign as it lost three of the first four games, the lone win in that span being a 28-17 triumph over Stony Brook. However, the Orange were able to get on track, beginning with a 14-13 victory against rival Pittsburgh in early October, and then, with a 40-10 rout of UConn, rattled off five wins in the last six games on the schedule. The strong finish gave the Orange a 7-5 record overall and a mark of 5-2 versus the rest of the Big East, putting them in a four-way tie for first place in the league standings, but relegated to a non-BCS bowl due to tie- breakers. Nevertheless, head coach Doug Marrone is still happy that the season has one more game to be played.
"We are thrilled to be invited to the New Era Pinstripe Bowl for the second time in three years...It means a great deal to us to play a bowl game in Yankee Stadium where many of our alumni and fans will have the opportunity to share it with us. New York State is the foundation of our program. I am proud of this team for the way it fought through early-season adversity to win five of the last six games and win a share of the Big East championship. It is great for our team, and particularly our seniors, to have the chance to play one more game. This senior class has given so much to our program on and off the field and will be great ambassadors for our program and University."
The forecast for the Pinstripe Bowl calls for snow and scoring.
West Virginia and Syracuse play Saturday at Yankee Stadium in a matchup of former Big East rivals and NFL-prospect quarterbacks
Snow is expected to fall in the New York area throughout the day, with accumulations of about 3 inches. Maybe that will help the defenses slow down a couple of offenses that have been among the best in the country this season.
"There are two factors that matter: It's wind and it's wet," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said Friday during a news conference with Syracuse coach Doug Marrone at Yankee Stadium. "Snow doesn't bother us much. If the wind's blowing that makes us miserable."
In that case the news should be good. The forecast calls for no more than light gusts of about 10 mph.
* Mountaineers are 5-1 ATS in their last six meetings in Syracuse. The Orange are the home team in this Bronx bowl game.
* Underdog is 5-2 ATS in their last seven meetings.
* Road team is 6-1 ATS in their last seven meetings.
West Virginia: 15-5 Over after gaining 325+ passing yards
Syracuse: 6-16 ATS away off BB games scoring 31+ points
West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith has 96 career touchdown passes, 40 this season, but has only three scoring strikes while throwing five interceptions and being sacked nine times in losses to Syracuse in 2010 and 2011.
Frank Schwab: West Virginia 49, Syracuse 41
I am a big fan of Geno Smith, although I'm still wondering exactly what happened during his midseason lull. Let's be honest: This is a huge audition for him. A great game here and he will start to create a positive draft buzz heading into the offseason. I think he's up to that challenge.
Graham Watson: West Virginia 52, Syracuse 48
Call it wishful thinking, but I want this game to be a ridiculous display of offensive overindulgence. After watching Rutgers and Virginia Tech in the offensively inept Russell Athletic Bowl on Friday, I think we all need a little offense in our lives. Both of these teams are capable of putting up big numbers and playing no defense. Let’s hope they come through.
In terms of the all-time series between these squads, Syracuse owns a 32-27 advantage thanks to a 49-23 triumph in the most recent meeting last season in the Carrier Dome. In that matchup, Orange quarterback Ryan Nassib converted 24-of-32 passes for 229 yards and four touchdowns to lead the home team to victory.
Syracuse has averaged 38.5 points in winning five of its last six games and the Mountaineers are giving up 38.1 overall –114th out of 120 FBS teams. Syracuse scored 49 points against West Virginia in 2011 and leads the series 32-27.