Guide to Big 12 bowl games: West Virginia

New Era Pinstripe Bowl
(7-5) West Virginia vs. (7-5) Syracuse 2:15 CT Sat, Dec. 29 | Yankees Stadium – The Bronx, NY
 
West Virginia: Came out like gangbusters, a 5-0 start to the season including conference wins over Baylor and Texas in which the Mountaineers scored 118 total points. What followed was five straight losses. WVU was still giving up mountains of points, but the offense stopped countering. Then it closed the year on a high note, winning back-to-back games over Iowa State and Kansas, just after narrowly losing a shootout to Oklahoma, 50-49.

Also ending on a high note was QB Geno Smith, completing 23-of-24 passes against the Jayhawks while connecting on a school-record 21 straight passes. His season passing yards are now 4,004. Tavon Austin was named the Big 12 co-Special Teams player of the Year and is responsible for 2,574 all-purpose yards with 17 touchdowns coming four different ways: receiving (12), rushing (3), punt return (1) and kickoff return (1).

Defense is still an issue. Only seven programs in FBS have given up more points in 2012 than West Virginia’s 457. On 58 opponent visits to its red zone, the Mountaineers have allowed 39 touchdowns, 10 field goals and only nine stops.

Mountaineers in Bowls:
14-17 all-time and coming off a record-breaking 70-33 wallop over Clemson in last year’s FedEx Orange Bowl. WVU has won five of its past seven bowl games. The Pinstripe Bowl affords West Virginia the opportunity to face a team from its former conference, the Big East. The two teams have played 59 times in history with the Orange owning a 32-27 advantage, and won the last meeting last year, 49-23, intercepting QB Geno Smith twice.

Pinstripe Bowl:
The newest member of the college bowl lineup, this is just the third contest in its brief history – arising with the birth of the new Yankees Stadium. The Big 12 is 0-2 against the Big East in the previous two games. Syracuse won the inaugural game, beating K-State in a controversial ending, 36-34. Trailing by eight with under two minutes to play, the Wildcats’ Adrian Hilburn scored on a touchdown pass. However, after saluting K-State fans behind the endzone, Hilburn was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, meaning the Cats had to attempt its two-point conversion to tie from the 17-yard line, which failed.

Syracuse:
Part of a four-way tie for the championship of the beleaguered Big East, finishing at 5-2 with Louisville, Cincinnati and Rutgers. Of those three, the Orange only beat Louisville, on November 10 when the Cardinals were ranked No. 9 in the nation. Syracuse closed out its season with five wins in its final six games, after opening the year losing four of six. The Orangemen led the Big East in passing and total offense. Senior QB Ryan Nassib has completed 63% of his passes for 3,619 yards with only nine INTs, all numbers that top those of Baylor’s Nick Florence. He’s thrown 24 touchdown passes to eight different receivers.