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Saturday, December 29, 2012
W2W4: Pinstripe Bowl

By Kieran Darcy

Here are three things to watch for when Syracuse (7-5, 5-2 Big East) faces West Virginia (7-5, 4-5 Big 12) on Saturday in the third annual Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium.

Kickoff is at 3:15 p.m., and you can watch the game on ESPN.

Winter wonderland: If you like watching football in the snow, you're in luck. The forecast calls for the white stuff to be falling by game time in the Bronx and for it to continue to come down throughout. We're expected to get only a few inches, but the weather still will affect the game. It might be more difficult to pass the ball in these conditions, and both teams rely heavily on the passing game (see below).

The Orange: These two teams are very familiar with each other: They were conference rivals in the Big East before West Virginia departed for the Big 12 after last season. (In fact, they played every year from 1955 to 2011.) Syracuse finished in a four-way tie for first place in the Big East this season, with Louisville, Cincinnati and Rutgers. After a 2-4 start, the Orange won five of their last six -- including their last three, versus Louisville, Missouri and Temple.

Syracuse senior quarterback Ryan Nassib has thrown for 3,619 yards (a school record) and 24 touchdowns this season, and junior running back Jerome Smith has rushed for 1,019 yards. The Orange are ranked 20th in the county in total yards per game (473.4) and 21st in passing yards per game (301.6).

Starting linebacker Marquis Spruill will not play "a significant portion" of the game, coach Doug Marrone has announced, because of an arrest after an altercation with police on Dec. 2. Syracuse also will be without running back Adonis Ameen-Moore and backup tight end Max Beaulieu, who have been suspended for violating athletic department rules. Ameen-Moore had 30 carries for just 108 yards this season, but he did score five touchdowns, mainly getting used in short-yardage situations.

The Mountaineers: West Virginia began the season 5-0, climbing all the way to No. 5 in the country -- but then things came crashing down. The Mountaineers were blown out by Texas Tech and Kansas State in consecutive weeks and ended up dropping five straight games. They wrapped up the regular season with two wins, though, versus Iowa State and Kansas.

Jets fans in particular might want to pay attention to this game, given that West Virginia's Geno Smith will be one of the best quarterbacks available in this year's NFL draft -- he's ranked No. 25 on Mel Kiper's Big Board. Smith has thrown for 4,004 yards this season, and he has 40 touchdown passes -- the most in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

Overall, the Mountaineers are one of the top offensive teams in the country, ranked eighth in the country in total yards per game (518.5), fifth in passing yards per game (340.9) and seventh in points per game (41.6). This should be a high-scoring affair despite the snow.