Syracuse is bowling again. The Orange are back in the postseason for the first time since 2004, and they celebrate by ringing in the inaugural New Era Pinstripe Bowl in their home state. Here's a quick preview:
WHO TO WATCH: Syracuse running back Delone Carter. The Orange offense really struggled down the stretch of the regular season, and Carter remains its one true, dependable force. The muscular, 215-pound senior isn't a big-play threat most of the time, but he can wear down defenses with his straight-ahead, physical style. He went over 1,000 yards this year for the second straight season, and Syracuse must establish the ground game with him and Antwon Bailey to set up play-action. And in cold, potentially snowy conditions, the running game becomes even more vital.
WHAT TO WATCH: The Syracuse defense vs. Kansas State's run game. There's little secret to what the Wildcats like to do: Get the ball in the hands of playmaking tailback Daniel Thomas as much as possible. They're not a big passing team, so Thomas gets the bulk of the work and will take snaps out of the Wildcat formation. The Orange defense was this team's strength all season. The suspension of tackle Andrew Lewis could hurt, but Chandler Jones, Bud Tribbey and Mikhail Marinovich are stout up front, while linebackers Doug Hogue and Derrell Smith are among the best in the Big East. The Orange will need safety help in the box as well.
WHY TO WATCH: To see Syracuse return to the postseason. To see postseason football being played for the first time in new Yankee Stadium. To see an old-school, grind-it-out physical game in cold weather, the way football was meant to be played. To see an up-and-coming coach (Syracuse's Doug Marrone) against a living legend (K-State's Bill Snyder).
PREDICTION: Syracuse should have a home-field feel in the Bronx, and I think the Orange defense can do a good job slowing down Thomas. Still, Kansas State has the ability to make big plays, while Syracuse has only lurched forward in small chunks and will be missing an underrated field-position weapon in punter Rob Long. The Orange keep it close, but fall 17-14.