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December 29, 2010

Pinstripe Bowl: Kansas State vs. Syracuse

The Pinstripe Bowl is a new game in a relatively new stadium, but the participants hope this contest is a return to form.

Neither program has been a bowl of late. Syracuse is playing in its first bowl since 2004. Kansas State is in its first bowl since 2006, and Wildcats coach Bill Snyder is ending an even longer bowl drought. Snyder last coached in the postseason in the 2004 Fiesta Bowl.

If that's not enough nostalgia, the new Yankee Stadium is hosting its first bowl game; the last bowl played in the Bronx was the 1962 Gotham Bowl (Nebraska beat Miami 36-34), which was in old Yankee Stadium.

Temperatures are expected to be around 35 at kickoff, with sunny skies and little wind.

This is the third meeting between the schools, and the previous two also came in bowl games. K-State won the 1997 Fiesta Bowl and Syracuse won the 2001 Insight.com Bowl.

WHO GETS THE EDGE?

Kansas State rush offense vs. Syracuse rush defense: Wildcats senior Daniel Thomas is one of the nation's most underrated running backs. He rushed for 1,495 yards and 16 touchdowns this season despite opponents not having to really worry about K-State's passing game. Backup QB Collin Klein came on late in the season running the zone read. Syracuse LBs Derrell Smith (first team) and Doug Hogue (second team) were Rivals.com All-Big East linebackers, but the Orange will be shorthanded. Two starters are out: DT Andrew Lewis is suspended and SS Max Suter is injured. Edge: Kansas State.

PINSTRIPE BOWL

Kansas State (7-5) vs. Syracuse (7-5)
WHEN: Dec. 30, 3:15 p.m.
WHERE: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, N.Y.
TV:ESPN (Bob Wischusen will do play-by-play, with Brian Griese as the analyst).
THE LINE: Pick 'em.
RECORDS VS. BOWL TEAMS: Kansas State 1-4, Syracuse 2-5.
NCAA SCHEDULE STRENGTH: Kansas State 46th, Syracuse 86th.
BCS RANKINGS: Neither team is ranked.
OFFICIATING CREW: From the Big Ten.
COACHES: Syracuse - Doug Marrone (first bowl); Kansas State - Bill Snyder (6-5 in bowls).
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH: Syracuse and K-State are two of the season's biggest success stories. Both ended bowl droughts and the teams look to be evenly matched. Neither played well down the stretch, though; Syracuse has won just once in its past four, while K-State finished 3-5 after starting 4-0.
KEY STATS: Syracuse closed the season with a whimper, particularly on offense. The Orange scored only two offensive touchdowns in their final three regular-season games. Kansas State struggled on defense for most of the season; the Wildcats allowed their past six opponents to average 235.5 rushing yards per game and 6.5 yards per carry.
Kansas State pass offense vs. Syracuse pass defense: Like Syracuse, Kansas State's success on offense depends mostly on the running game. Starting QB Carson Coffman had an up-and-down season, passing for 1,832 yards with 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions. No wide receiver scares anyone. Syracuse was second to West Virginia in the Big East in most defensive categories. The Orange finished the regular season with just nine interceptions, but they do have 26 sacks. Edge: Syracuse.

Syracuse rush offense vs. Kansas State rush defense: After rushing for 1,035 yards and seven TDs this season, Delone Carter is the centerpiece of the Syracuse offense. He left the regular-season finale against Boston College early with an injury, but he should be healthy for this game. Antwon Bailey (504 yards, two TDs) has been a capable backup. K-State struggled to defend the run all season, ranking 118th nationally in rush defense. Five of the Wildcats' past six opponents rushed for at least 200 yards. Edge: Syracuse.

Syracuse pass offense vs. Kansas State pass defense: Syracuse clearly needs an effective rushing attack game to open up its passing game. Throw out two games against FCS opponents, and sophomore Ryan Nassib has completed only 55.1 percent of his passes. Van Chew is an effective receiver, but he's not a game-breaker. Because of Kansas State's awful run defense, opponents really haven't had to test the pass defense. The secondary is led by true freshman FS Ty Zimmerman (three picks). Edge: Kansas State.

Kansas State special teams vs. Syracuse special teams: K-State's best special teams performer has been KR William Powell (34.6 yards per return, with one touchdown), but he is injured. Aubrey Quarles, K-State's best receiver, has taken on kickoff-return duties, and he has done well, averaging 25.9 yards per attempt, with one touchdown. K Josh Cherry is 7-of-8, including 3-of-3 from beyond 40 yards. Ryan Doerr is a solid punter. The punt coverage has been good, the kickoff coverage fair. Syracuse will be without all-conference P Rob Long, who is receiving treatment for a brain tumor. Backup K Ryan Lichtenstein will be the punter in Long's absence. K Ross Krautman (17-of-18 on field-goal attempts) was a Rivals.com freshman All-American; he is 5-of-6 from beyond 40 yards. Starting CB Mike Holmes is a good punt returner. Syracuse's kickoff coverage has been spotty and that should worry Orange coaches. The punt coverage and kickoff-return units have been good. Edge: Even.

Kansas State coaches vs. Syracuse coaches: Bill Snyder is a bowl veteran, while Doug Marrone is making his first appearance as a head coach. Kansas State didn't have a flashy record, but the Wildcats limited the damage by limiting mistakes. The Wildcats were plus-four in turnover margin and were among the least penalized teams in the nation. Edge: Kansas State.

X-factor: Kansas State turned to Klein at quarterback against Texas, and the Wildcats crushed the Longhorns 39-14 despite throwing only four passes. A big reason was 25 carries for 127 yards and two touchdowns from Klein. Coffman is the better passer and Thomas is K-State's top offensive player, but the offense might be most effective with all three handling the ball, as it was in the final four games of the season.

Syracuse will win if: The Orange need to get a big game from Carter. He is Syracuse's best offensive skill player, but he averaged only 83.7 rushing yards and scored only two touchdowns in Big East play. K-State's run defense is soft, so a big game from Carter gives Syracuse its best chance to win.

Kansas State will win if: The Wildcats have to be at least somewhat balanced on offense. Syracuse's defense will take a hit without Suter and Lewis, but this remains a solid unit led by coordinator Scott Shafer. The defense is aggressive and can cause problems for opposing quarterbacks. If Coffman can have some success early throwing the ball, it will open running lanes for Thomas.

EXPERT PICKS

Olin Buchanan: Kansas State 20, Syracuse 17
Tom Dienhart: Syracuse 24, Kansas State 14
David Fox: Syracuse 24, Kansas State 17
Mike Huguenin: Kansas State 21, Syracuse 17
Steve Megargee: Syracuse 21, Kansas State 20

David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com.



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