It’s throwback day at Yankee Stadium with an old foe in a familiar building.
- No, the destination and opponent of SU football will be neither warm nor new. Some fans may gripe, “Been there, done that.” But taking on West Virginia is pretty cool in a bowl game. It’s not quite as emotionally charged as it might be a few years from now when we have more distance from the old Big East. But it’s a little like facing Georgetown or UConn in the NCAA tournament next year. If there was ever a true Big East football rival, WVU was it for the Orange (even if the feeling wasn’t mutual).
- There’s obvious tension between these two schools. Familiarity breeds contempt. The Mountaineers got thrashed last season inside the Dome on national television, a win that was one of the most exciting in Doug Marrone’s tenure. Geno Smith vs. Ryan Nassib is a hell of a quarterback matchup, potentially two of the first signal-callers taken in April’s draft. These offenses should combine for upwards of 80 points. And fans of both schools should be able to travel in droves. This matchup is pretty bad ass.
- Two weeks ago we projected Rutgers to the BCS, Louisville to Orlando, Belk selecting Cincinnati and SU taking on TCU in the Pinstripe. But Thursday’s Cards win meant UofL to the Orange Bowl instead. Baylor, Texas Tech, TCU and West Virginia all finished tied in the Big 12 standings at 7-5, 4-5. So it was a bit of a crap shoot which opponent would fall to what bowl.
- This weekend wasn’t as kind in how the dominos fell for the Orange. Both Louisville and Rutgers were upset last Saturday, leaving a chance for SU to earn a share of the Big East title with a UofL win Thursday night. Of course, the Cardinals did that, giving SU a piece of the league championship. But the rest of the puzzle wasn’t as nice to the Orange. An RU win would’ve knocked Louisville below Syracuse in the Big East standings. A UConn victory yesterday would’ve kept Cincinnati below SU in the conference. A Pitt loss would’ve eliminated the Panthers from bowl contention, and prevented the paranoia they could take Syracuse’s spot in the Pinstripe. None of that happened.
- Instead, Rutgers grabbed the Russell Athletic Bowl. The Belk Bowl selected Cincinnati. And the Pinstripe folks had a decision between SU and Pitt. Some felt a resurrection of the Backyard Brawl would be too much for the Bronx to pass up, but the guess is projected attendance tipped the scales. SU repped very well two years ago, and there was no guarantee of how Panthers fans would travel for an uninspiring 6-6 team.
- Was there a little back room politicking to push Syracuse into the Pinstripe? Distinctly possible. Yankee Stadium held Syracuse Day not long ago. There’s a permanent SU marketing sign above the foul poles in the Bronx. It would’ve been very difficult to take a 6-6 Pitt team that lost head-to-head to Syracuse, even if the Backyard Brawl was tantalizing.
- For those unhappy with heading back to the Bronx, surprisingly the payout was actually a little more than the Belk Bowl. Reports said SU would get $1.8M for playing at Yankee Stadium, versus $1.7M in Charlotte. Not that fans ever see a dime of that money. The extra hundred grand probably goes to Doc Gross’ anytime minutes. But it’s worth noting.
- In the disappointment some may have with ending in NYC again, there definitely is a bounce in playing in the tri-state area. Doug Marrone’s recruiting has had huge success in the five boroughs. Playing at MetLife Stadium against USC attracted some top tier Big Apple talent. It also allows NYC alumni to come watch the game. I went to the game two years ago and Kansas State fans were outnumbered 3-to-1.
- Not every player is thrilled with the decision. Keon Lyn tweeted “Noooooo” in response to Rutgers getting the Russell Athletic bid, then “I swear they want us to play in the pinstripe bowl smh.” You will not hear this reaction from Marrone or players from now on. The talking points will be in full effect: “We are truly honored to be playing in the Pinstripe Bowl.”
- No matter where SU ended up, playing in the postseason is a big time accomplishment. The Orange were 2-4 at one point this year. The Orange gets the bowl payout, an extra month of practice time heading into next year, and a late push for National Signing Day in February. What vital momentum heading into its first year in the ACC.