NCF Nation: 2010 Pinstripe Bowl 3 keys

New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Keys for K-State

December, 29, 2010
1. Stop giving up big plays. It's become a bit of what Kansas State's defense does, but it has to stop if the Wildcats are going to win this game. They gave up 75 plays of more than 10 yards in 12 games. Only Kansas surrendered more, and it gave up 76. K-State gave up 28 plays of more than 20 yards and 19 plays of more than 30 yards. Longer than 40 yards? 11 plays. Seven went for more than 50 yards and four went for more than 60. No team in the Big 12 gave up more than all of those, and Kansas State's offense isn't explosive enough to keep up if that continues in the Pinstripe Bowl.

2. Keep playing disciplined football. As bad as Kansas State has been defensively, they've been solid when it comes to not making mental mistakes that give opponents free yards. Kansas State has allowed just 466 penalty yards, which is eighth fewest nationally, and if they eliminate the above character flaw of big plays and accentuate the discipline they've displayed elsewhere, the Wildcats will be tough to beat. Syracuse, meanwhile, ranks 95th nationally in the stat with 741 penalty yards on 90 flags to the Wildcats' 66.

3. Win the rushing battle. It's pretty simple here. Everything that comes with doing this -- time of possession, points, momentum -- can mean a win in a game that'll feature a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in Syracuse's Delone Carter and Kansas State's Daniel Thomas. It's not a cure-all -- turnovers and missed opportunities can swing the game one way or the other -- but the safe bet in this game is whichever team rushes for more yards leaves with a win.

New Era Pinstripe Bowl keys for Syracuse

December, 29, 2010
Three keys for Syracuse in Wednesday's New Era Pinstripe Bowl matchup with Kansas State:

Make the Wildcats throw it: Kansas State ranked 20th nationally in running the ball and has a star player in tailback Daniel Thomas. In the latter part of the season, backup quarterback Collin Klein gave the Wildcats another running threat. Like Syracuse, though, they don't own a fearsome passing game. Klein is mostly a runner, and Carson Coffman has been erratic at times as a passer. Scott Shafer's defense works best when it can load the box and bring pressure against quarterbacks. Syracuse needs to make Kansas State one-dimensional -- in the dimension it doesn't want to use.

Run, Run, Run: Kansas State had the third-worst rushing defense in the FBS this season, a stat which must make Doug Marrone smile. You can count on one hand the number of 30-plus yard plays the Orange offense produced in the final weeks of the season, but the one thing they do well is run the ball hard between the tackles. The Syracuse offensive line should control the line of scrimmage and free Delone Carter and Antwon Bailey to get into the second level and make things happen. It could be a cold day at Yankee Stadium; if the Orange can keep the ball on the ground and burn clock, that would provide a huge advantage.

Special teams: Not having punter Rob Long, who is recovering from brain surgery, is a big loss for Syracuse. Long also handles kickoffs and is the holder for the Orange. Meanwhile, Kansas State kick returner William Powell led the nation by averaging 34.6 yards per return. No one knows quite how the winds will work at Yankee Stadium with its unique setup. Special teams can often be rusty after a long pre-bowl layoff, and in a game that could be low-scoring, the kicking game could be the difference.