Rivalry Renewed In Pinstripe Bowl

“A matchup between former Big East foes”. If you haven’t heard this phrase before, you better start getting used to it. With the most prominent members of a once proud Big East Conference leaving for greener pastures in the ACC, Big 10, and Big 12, the games between those schools will be few and far between, brought together by special circumstances, and will hold the label of “a matchup between former Big East foes”. Case in point, the 2012 Pinstripe Bowl, which will be played between old rivals Syracuse and West Virginia.

For Syracuse, it’ll be their final game as a representative of the Big East Conference, as they will officially join the ACC next year. For West Virginia, it will be their first bowl game as a representative of the Big 12 conference, after they left the Big East a year ago, in large part because Syracuse and Pittsburgh had already announced their intentions to leave the conference.

In a lot of ways, it’s fitting for these two teams to meet at this stage in the realignment process. The game represents one last meeting between traditional Big East rivals before the teams that previously made up the core of the conference all go their separate ways. We will continue to see plenty of games between former Big East foes, especially in the ACC, which has been the main culprit when it comes to poaching Big East schools; however, some of the league’s best rivalries of yesteryear, such as Pittsburgh-West Virginia, Syracuse-West Virginia, and even Syracuse-Rutgers will only be seen once in a blue moon in chance opportunities like bowl games. This Syracuse-West Virginia game is a reminder of what the Big East used to be and an opportunity to see a rivalry that we may not get a chance to see all that often in the years to come.

As for the game itself, it’s one of the most intriguing matchups of the bowl season this year. Take a good look at the bowl schedule and you will find no better matchup at the quarterback position than the Pinstripe Bowl. Both Ryan Nassib of Syracuse and Geno Smith of West Virginia are expected to be early-round draft picks in next year’s NFL draft and both have put up monster numbers in their senior seasons. Nassib has thrown for over 3,600 yards and 24 touchdowns while Smith has thrown for over 4,000 yards and an almost unbelievable 40 touchdowns. With quarterbacks like Nassib and Smith leading the way, the scoreboard at Yankee Stadium is bound to light up all afternoon.

Adding a caveat to the game is the fact that the two teams ended the season moving in opposite directions. The Orange suffered some tough losses early in the season on their way to a 2-4 start, creating an uphill climb for them just to get to a bowl game. However, the Orange hit their stride down the stretch and won five of their last six games to win a share of the Big East title and get back to the Pinstripe Bowl for the second time in three years. On the other side, West Virginia jumped out to a 5-0 start, putting them in the mix for a national championship, but the wheels quickly came off as the Mountaineers then lost five games in a row. They eventually broke the losing streak and won their final two games and finish the season with a 7-5 record, the same as Syracuse, but for the Mountaineers an appearance in the Pinstripe Bowl is far from what they were hoping for at the midway point of the season.

Regardless of how they got there, Syracuse and West Virginia make up what could end up being one of the more memorable bowl games of the 2012 season. The two teams both have explosive offenses, as well as a long and storied rivalry with one another, which should lead to an intense, competitive, and above all a high scoring game. Such a great game will be, in a way, a swan song for the Big East, as one of the conference’s most recognizable rivalries takes center stage just before the conference becomes unrecognizable.

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