Pinstripe Bowl Preview: West Virginia, Syracuse and Snow

Tim Heitman-US PRESSWIRE

It's one of a few bowls featuring former conference mates now split apart by realignment.

New Era Pinstripe Bowl, Saturday, 3:15 p.m. ET, ESPN

Why it exists: Because playing a game outdoors in New York in late December is the perfect way to reward mediocre teams for having merely OK seasons. And also because of the hubris of the New York Yankees' ownership group.

The teams: West Virginia and Syracuse

How West Virginia got here: Through the first month of the season, West Virginia was the most popular team in the nation. Geno Smith was playing out of his mind, the team was hailed for making football fun again (whatever that means), and WVU made it to the top five of the polls despite playing very little defense of any kind. Perhaps the exuberance was just everyone getting a contact buzz off of Dana Holgorsen's Red Bulls, but it wouldn't last. The team went into a tailspin, losing its next five games, three of them in ugly fashion. They pulled out of it late, beating Iowa State and Kansas, but the idea of this team being elite is gone. Smith and Tavon Austin are incredible players, though.

How Syracuse got here: The Orange had a ... let's go with rocky start to the season in 2012. The first half of the slate left the team 2-4, with the wins over Pitt (who lost to Youngstown State) by one and Stony Brook by 11. Beating Stony Brook by 11 would have been impressive if we were talking about last year's College World Series. But in football? Not so much. However, the team turned it around and closed the year 5-1. The only loss was to Cincinnati, which won 10 games and lost its coach to Tennessee. One of those wins was even over an SEC team, as they went to Columbia and beat Missouri, and another was convincingly over BCS participant Louisville.

College football fans care because: Games with Holgorsen involved don't tend to be boring.

SEC fans care because: We get to mock Yankees because there's a 90% chance of snow, and there's a natural excuse because it's in Yankee Stadium.

Watch this game if...: You'd like to see an Air Raid team play in snow and also to see Smith and Austin one more time. Plus, get nostalgic about the Big East since these two used to be conference rivals, but soon neither will be in there.

cocknfire's pick: West Virginia 54, Syracuse 42

Line: West Virginia by 3.5 or 4, depending on where you look

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