Pinstripe Bowl preview: Kansas State-Syracuse

Syracuse returns to the postseason for the first time since 2004 when it plays Kansas State in the Pinstripe Bowl on Thursday afternoon, and the Orange will celebrate by playing in their home state and at Yankee Stadium. Kansas State is back in postseason play for the first time since 2006, and not even a winter snowstorm could prevent the Wildcats from arriving in the Big Apple. So for the third time in their histories, the Orange will face the Wildcats in a bowl game. The two previous times occurred in the 1997 Fiesta and 2001 Insight.

Here’s a closer look at the Wildcats and Orange.

Kansas State (7-5, 3-5 Big 12): Kansas State’s offense begins and ends with running the football, and senior Daniel Thomas paces the attack. The running back churned out a career-high 1,495 yards and 16 touchdowns this season, and he finally found a partner-in-crime in the backfield late in the season with the emergence of quarterback Collin Klein. Senior Carson Coffman is still expected to start under center for the Wildcats, but it’s Klein’s rushing ability that has really helped K-State’s ground game become unstoppable — as if it wasn’t already difficult to contain with Thomas alone. Even though Texas suffered through a miserable season, it’s still a feather in the cap when a duo could make a Longhorns defense look silly. And that’s exactly what Klein and Thomas were able to do when the teams met. Klein will get ample opportunity on the field whether Coffman starts or not, and the zone-read scheme with Klein and Thomas will be tough for the Orange to defend.

Defensively, the Wildcats love giving up yards in big chunks. Bill Snyder’s squad allowed 75 plays of more than 10 yards and 28 plays of more than 20 yards this season. As well as its rushing attack can be when it’s clicking, Kansas State doesn’t have enough firepower to stay in games when the defense is so porous.

Delone CarterICONDelone Carter is confident that the Orange will be able to move the ball against the Kansas State defense.

Syracuse (7-5, 4-3 Big East): The Orange have a productive rushing attack of their own led by running back Delone Carter, who stated earlier in the week that the Orange’s healthy offensive unit was “going to dominate” and that he will enjoy playing in the cold weather. In their last two games, the Wildcats allowed 270 yards on the ground to Lance Dunbar of North Texas and Colorado’s Rodney Stewart gained 195 yards, so Carter could be primed for a nice season-ending effort.

Defensively for Syracuse, coordinator Scott Shafer loves to load the box and pressure the quarterback. Kansas State is a one-trick pony, so shutting down Thomas will force Coffman to have to make plays through the air — and that’s when the pressure will come. The defensive unit, besides Carter on the ground, was the strength of the Syracuse team all season. Tackle Andrew Lewis will miss the game due to suspension, but the Orange have depth up front. And linebackers Doug Hogue and Derrell Smith are at their best when they are able to roam.

While the Orange scored only two offensive touchdowns in their final three regular-season games, Kansas State has struggled on defense for most of the season. Case in point: the Wildcats allowed their last six opponents to average 235.5 rushing yards per game and 6.5 yards per carry. Carter and the Orange should find plenty of running lanes.

The last time a Yankee Stadium hosted a bowl game was in 1962 when it housed the Gotham Bowl. That game was played between Miami (FL) and Nebraska. The day before the game, Nebraska refused to leave Lincoln until the bowl’s check for expenditures cleared, which it did. Miami made a similar demand and received their expense check up front. Yes, money was involved back then, too. Nebraska went on to beat Miami 36-34. But the poor attendance made the game the last one to be played in New York. Let’s hope the Pinstripe Bowl doesn’t suffer the same fate.

Email dave.miller@nationalfootballpost.com or follow me on Twitter at Miller_Dave

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