New Era Pinstripe Bowl Preview: K-State vs. Syracuse

LAWRENCE KS - OCTOBER 14: Daniel Thomas #8 of the Kansas State Wildcats carries the ball as Olaitan Oguntodu #44 of the Kansas Jayhawks defends during the game on October 14 2010 at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence Kansas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

On Thursday, December 30, 2010, K-State will meet Syracuse at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York, in the inaugural New Era Pinstripe Bowl.  The game will kickoff at 2:30 p.m. CST, and will be broadcast live on ESPN.

Out here in Big 12 country, we don't get a lot of Big East football coverage.  For more on the Orange, be sure to check out SB Nation's Syracuse blog, Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician.  We'll take a closer look at SU shortly, but for now just know that the Orange went 7-5 this season, with a 4-3 record in Big East play.  The biggest win on the year for Syracuse was probably its October 23 triumph over West Virginia in Morgantown, W.Va.

Syracuse Offense

Scoring Offense: 99th nationally, 7th Big East (21.0 points per game)

Passing Offense: 91st nationally, 6th Big East (178.0 yards per game)

Rushing Offense: 88th nationally, 7th Big East (138.3 yards per game)

Total Offense: 106th nationally, 7th Big East (308.3 yards per game)

As you can see, the Syracuse offense is the Orange's version of K-State's defense.  In other words, it's not very good.  At all.  Junior quarterback Ryan Nassib guides the Orange attack.  Nassib completed 56.1 percent of his passes for 2,095 yards, 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions.  Not terrible numbers by any stretch of the imagination, but nothing out of the ordinary.  Stats-wise, at least, Nassib seems to fit the bill of "game manager" to a T.

The next candidate for the K-State defense "make no-name running backs look like Barry Sanders" campaign is Syracuse's Delone Carter.  A senior, Carter broke the 1,000-yard mark, gaining 1,035 net yards on 5.1 yards per carry and 86.2 yards per game.  He also accounted for seven rushing touchdowns.  Carter is not much of a receiving threat with only eight receptions for 45 yards on the season.  Without seeing him on film, it's difficult to determine Carter's rushing style.  Syracuse lists him at 5'10", 215 lbs., which means he has the height of a scatback and the weight of a bruiser.  OK, maybe a welterweight.  Let's hope he has the a bruiser's (lack of) speed without the ability run people over.

Nobody particularly stands out in the SU receiving corps.  Van Chew, a junior, led the way with 41 receptions for 611 yards and five touchdowns.  His longest reception on the season was 48 yards, and he averages almost 51 yards per game.  As with the rest of the Orange offense, there's not much to write home about here.

One interesting stat that we discussed on the podcast last night is the amount of sacks Syracuse has given up.  In 12 regular-season games, the Syracuse offensive line gave up 31 sacks for 221 yards lost.  That's, like, a lot.  As with all other things regarding Syracuse, I haven't seen them in action, so I don't know if the number of sacks is due to a terrible offensive line, a quarterback who holds the ball too long, receivers who can't get open, or some combination of the above.

Of course, that may not matter much, given that K-State's defense has a tendency to make even mediocre offenses look like Oklahoma State, as we'll see shortly.

K-State Defense

Scoring Defense: 73rd nationally, 7th Big 12 (28.5 points per game)

Passing Defense: 52nd nationally, 5th Big 12 (212.3 yards per game)

Rushing Defense: 118th nationally, 12th Big 12 (229.1 yards per game)

Total Defense: 106th nationally, 11th Big 12 (441.3 yards per game)

It's not pretty, but then you probably knew that if you read this blog regularly.  For our visiting SU friends, you should be salivating looking at those numbers, especially considering you have what appears to be a semi-competent running back.  For a little perspective, the last time K-State took the field, a running back from NORTH Texas had five carries for 161 yards in the first quarter.  Yes, you read that correctly.

That's not to say there aren't some talented players on the K-State defense.  Given SU's aforementioned sack-yielding deficiencies, it's possible we could see Brandon Harold get loose and cause some chaos in the Orange backfield.  Defensive backs David Garrett, Ty Zimmerman and Stephen Harrison should be able to contain Syracuse's receivers.  It will probably be bend-but-don't-break in all its glory horror.

Syracuse Defense

Scoring Defense: 13th nationally, 2nd Big East (18.1 points per game)

Passing Defense: 5th nationally, 1st Big East (156.3 yards per game)

Rushing Defense: 42nd nationally, 5th Big East (147.4 yards per game)

Total Defense: 5th nationally, 2nd Big East (293.8 yards per game)

If there's any good news here, it's that Syracuse's "weakness" on defense is stopping the run.  Fortunately, as we know, that is K-State's strength.  Still, 42nd in the country isn't bad -- we'd take it in a heartbeat -- and Daniel Thomas hasn't been impressive against the better defenses K-State has faced.  Additionally, no matter who plays at quarterback for K-State, they're not going to beat any defense through the air, so 'Cuse will probably load the box and dare Carson Coffman or Collin Klein to throw the ball.

Senior Derrell Smith led the Orange this year with 103 tackles, including 8.0 tackles for loss from his linebacking position.  Syracuse was nothing special in the sack department, averaging a hair over two per game on the season, with no individual player totaling more than four.  They also aren't exactly a bunch of ballhawks, either, ranking 85th nationally with nine interceptions on the year.  The Orange will be playing without several defensive players Thursday.  Linebacker Malcolm Cater was a bit contributor with 13 tackles on the season, Andrew Lewis had 28 tackles, including 4.5 tackles for loss and a sack from his linebacker position, and defensive tackle Brice Hawkes, who had twelve tackles on the year.

K-State Offense

Scoring Offense: 25th nationally, 3rd Big 12 (33.6 points per game)

Passing Offense: 97th nationally, 10th Big 12 (172.8 yards per game)

Rushing Offense: 20th nationally, 2nd Big 12 (205.8 yards per game)

Total Offense: 62nd nationally, 9th Big 12 (378.5 yards per game)

Talk about schizophrenia.  K-State ranks highly in putting points on the board and running the ball, but is just mediocre overall thanks to a terrible passing game.  My kingdom for healthy receivers and, more importantly, a quarterback who can deliver the ball.

Here's the bottom line in this game.  There is absolutely no reason for Carson Coffman to play at quarterback.  We are not going to throw the ball on Syracuse.  We just aren't.  Coffman is the only K-State quarterback who can throw the ball semi-competently, and even he's not all that good throwing the ball.  Collin Klein should be the choice, as Syracuse is somewhat vulnerable to the run, and Klein and Thomas make a formidable pair in the backfield.  A little of Thomas in the Wildcat formation would be a nice change of pace.  If the Cats can get the running game going, surely at some point Klein can complete a play-action pass, right?  Right?  Right?!?!

Special Teams

Syracuse

Field Goals: 17 made, 94.4 percent

Opponent Kickoff Returns: 87th nationally, 22.58 yards per return, 1 touchdown allowed

Opponent Punt Returns: 47th nationally, 7.48 yards per return, 0 touchdowns allowed

Punting: 23rd nationally, 43.84 net yards

K-State

Field Goals: 10 made, 80.0 percent

Opponent Kickoff Returns: 60th nationally, 21.32 yards per return, 1 touchdown allowed

Opponent Punt Returns: 30th nationally, 6.4 yards per return, 0 touchdowns allowed

Punting: 51st nationally, 41.57 net yards

Both teams are thoroughly ordinary on special teams except for field goals (Syracuse) and kickoff returns (K-State...maybe).  Syracuse has an excellent kicker in Ross Krautman.  He's not an especially powerful kicker -- his longest make on the year is 48 yards -- but if the Orange can gain the 30 yard line, they probably have three points assured.  For K-State, if William Powell somehow makes a miraculous recovery and plays in the game, and is at full speed, then K-State would have an edge in the kickoff return department.  As it is, Syracuse is pretty bad at covering kickoffs, so if the Cats can put someone athletic back there, it's possible a big play could be made.

Conclusion

After doing this post, I'm even more confused than I was during last night's podcast, which is probably pretty surprising for the four or five of you who listened to the podcast.  This will probably be one of those games where both teams' strengths match up and an ugly, low-scoring slugfest ensues.  Vegas currently has the game as either a pick 'em or has Syracuse -1, and the over/under is a paltry 47.5.  I'm taking the under, but give me K-State on the money line.  And no, I have no good reason for picking that, other than being a K-State fan.

K-State 21, Syracuse 17

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