NCF Nation: Pinstripe Bowl keys 2012

New Era Pinstripe Bowl keys

December, 29, 2012
12/29/12
9:30
AM ET
Let's take a look at three keys for victory for West Virginia in today's New Era Pinstripe Bowl.

1. Limit the long ball. West Virginia has given up 63 completions longer than 20 yards this season, more than any team since Nevada all the way back in 2008. Syracuse's Ryan Nassib is a future NFL player who can sling it and had a huge senior season with 3,619 yards, 24 touchdowns and nine picks. West Virginia is going to give up yards, but it's got to make Syracuse earn them, and the easiest way to do that is to prevent the big ball over the top. Keith Patterson has taken over defensive play-calling duties from Joe DeForest. Will we see a noticeable difference? WVU's bowl hopes likely depend on it.

2. Give Geno Smith some help. There's lots that goes into this, but for me, it comes down to the offensive line. Center Joe Madsen is the unit's best player, but he's academically ineligible. Smith, the nation's leader with 40 touchdown passes, needs time to to make plays. You can provide that time by blocking well, but it gets a whole lot easier when you run the ball well. WVU has been inconsistent in that area, but if it runs the ball well against Syracuse, keeping up in a high-scoring game without turnovers becomes a very reasonable proposition.

3. Keep it simple, y'all. Feed Tavon the rock. No need to get complex. West Virginia has about a million ways to do it, but the more Tavon Austin touches the ball, the better. Ask Oklahoma, which gave up 344 rushing yards and 572 all-purpose yards in a crazy night for the star. Austin is still getting some touches at running back, but WVU has got to work to get him the ball. If he gets fewer than 15 touches, West Virginia is not winning this game.

New Era Pinstripe Bowl keys

December, 29, 2012
12/29/12
9:30
AM ET
Here are three keys for Syracuse in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl:

1. Establish the run. What better way for Syracuse to keep West Virginia off the field than with its running game? It has been outstanding in the latter half of the season. Syracuse averaged 127.5 yards on the ground in the first six games of the year. In the last six games? The Orange averaged 216.2 yards rushing. It is no coincidence that Syracuse went 5-1 in its final six games, then. The bulk of the carries should go to Jerome Smith, who hit 1,000 yards this season, and Prince-Tyson Gulley as Adonis Ameen-Moore is serving a suspension for this game.

2. Get after Geno Smith. Syracuse has done a terrific job harassing Smith in the past two games the teams played, both Orange victories. They were so successful, in fact, that a Big 12 reporter got on the Big East coaches' call earlier this year and asked Syracuse coach Doug Marrone how they were able to slow down Smith so effectively. Marrone politely declined to answer at the time. But there is no doubt the game plan is going to remain the same going into this game. Containing Smith takes away a large part of what the Mountaineers do on offense.

3. Lock down Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. Easier said than done, right? Austin and Bailey were outstanding once again this season -- Austin finished No. 2 in the nation in all-purpose yards with 2,760, and Bailey led the nation with 23 receiving touchdowns and was a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award. Syracuse has had its share of problems on special teams, particularly on covering punts, so this is going to have to be a major point of emphasis to make sure Austin doesn't burn the Orange there. Syracuse cornerbacks Keon Lyn and Ri'Shard Anderson are going to have their hands full, but you can bet Syracuse also will rely on the sure-handed tackling of Shamarko Thomas to help wrap these guys up so they can contain yards after the catch.

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