Two potential first-round NFL picks at quarterback will go at it in the Pinstripe Bowl, as Geno Smith and the West Virginia Mountaineers take on Ryan Nassib and the Syracuse Orange in a game that's tough to pick, but easy to gauge as a high-scoring affair.
The Orange lived by the skin of their teeth all season, with six of their 12 games coming down to one score or less. After a poor start, losing three of four, they rebounded to take a share of the Big East title at 5-2 in conference. Nassib led that resurgence, with 3,619 yards passing in his senior year. Meanwhile, the Mountaineers had a reverse of that turnaround, earning a top-5 ranking and Heisman talk for Smith after a 5-0 start. But while they're packed with playmakers - Stedman Bailey and all-American Tavon Austin are targets for Smith - their defense killed them, allowing 38.1 points per game, the 116th-best number in the country, almost cancelling out Dana Holgorsen's elite offense as they lost five straight after their strong start. Smith cracked 4,000 yards while completing 71.4 percent of his passes and throwing 40 TD's to only six picks.
As such, pickers see a shootout: Stewart Mandel of SI.com predicted a 63-57 win for the Orange, while John Tamanaha of College Football Talk was a little bit more subdued, seeing 'Cuse winning 42-38. SB Nation's panel sided with West Virginia in their bowl predictions, but Bill Connelly's advanced stats saw Syracuse taking it. Jerry Palm of CBS wouldn't put down a score, but saw West Virginia covering the 3.5-point spread.