Kansas State Wildcats (7-5) vs. Syracuse Orange (7-5)
Dec. 30, 3:20 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Kansas State take by Big 12 blogger David Ubben: Take me at my word, I'll spare you any sort of Apple humor for the duration of this game's coverage. That said, the two Manhattans will be linked when Kansas State heads to the Pinstripe Bowl, even though Yankee Stadium is in the Bronx.
Daniel Thomas carried the Wildcats to an early 4-0 start, but Kansas State struggled to a 1-4 finish in conference play before finishing the season with a win over North Texas to finish 7-5. Thomas, a senior, will get a chance to prove his worth to NFL scouts with a big game against Syracuse, and he'll be coming off a 269-yard performance in the win over North Texas.
Kansas State found a new offense late in the season when it leaned on quarterback Collin Klein, who played receiver last season. Carson Coffman still sees plenty of time, but the Wildcats offense, even if it's one-dimensional with Klein, can be dangerous. In a 39-14 win over Texas earlier this year, the Wildcats needed just four pass attempts to jump out to a 39-0 lead. They ran for 261 yards in that game, and Klein and Thomas both topped 100 yards.
If Syracuse doesn't see enough Cats on Broadway, its front seven will have its hands full with these 'Cats.
No promises on other New York/baseball humor.
Second-year coach Doug Marrone has engineered a remarkable turnaround, leading the Orange to their first bowl game since 2004. They actually were still in position to win the Big East title in their final conference game, but losing three of the past four to end the year took a little cheer out of the banner year.
Defense powered the improvement, as coordinator Scott Shafer's heavy blitz schemes caused problems for Big East teams all year. Led by tackling-machine linebackers Derrell Smith and Doug Hogue, Syracuse ranked sixth in the FBS in total defense.
This is an offensively-challenged team that sputtered to the finish line, scoring just 26 points in its final three games combined. That could spell trouble against a Kansas State team that averaged 33.5 points per game this season. The Orange are in no way built for a Big 12-style shootout.
But they should have a heavily pro-Syracuse crowd at Yankee Stadium. And after such a long absence from the postseason, the Orange are just happy to be bowling anywhere.