Howard Smith (USA Today)
TNIAAM's football experts discuss Syracuse's invite to the Pinstripe Bowl, the coaching staff's outside job prospects and how the Orange would've fared in the ACC this year
Each week, we'll be holding a roundtable discussion with TNIAAM's football "experts" to get a read on the program's most pressing issues on- and off-the-field. Have differing opinions? Feel free to share them in the comments.
Could Syracuse have pulled a more intriguing matchup than West Virginia in the Pinstripe Bowl?
Matt McClusky: I doubt it, in fact I think the Pinstripe Bowl probably could have pulled off a more intriguing match up in West Virginia v. Pittsburgh. But while it would have been interesting to see SU battle Baylor or Oklahoma State, there will be a little something more on the line given that the Orange will be lining up against the Mountaineers one more time.
Chris Daughtrey: In a word, no. Maybe a rematch with Kansas State, given how the last game went down, but other than that, WVU is the only BIG 12 team Syracuse really has a history with. Between the old Big East connection, the Schwartzwalder trophy and the spanking the Orange gave the 'Neers last season, this might very well be the best possible match up period, regardless of getting stuck with a Big 12 opponent.
John Cassillo: Nope. There isn't another opponent that would give this game the type of national intrigue it has right now. Rivalry (a bowl rarity), two high-powered offenses, and an open canvas for conference realignment talk. It's a broadcaster's dream, and that dream will be realized on December 29. Homerism aside, WVU/Syracuse sets up as one of the bowl season's most exciting and fun matchups, and I'm glad to be a part of it.
Sean Keeley: Intriguing? No. Oklahoma State or Baylor would have been different but since these are the 2012 versions and not the 2011 versions, they wouldn't exactly move the meter. West Virginia gives the Pinstripe Bowl something most bowls don't have...rivalry and emotion. There are stakes involved and that makes it a very interesting match-up.
MM: Given the reported details of what Spruill and Rene may have actually done, I have serious doubts we'll see either play in the Pinstripe Bowl. In fact, I'd be surprised to see either back with the team at all.
CD: I say no. There was a nice comment on the main thread about the incident that described the difference between felonies, misdemeanors and violations. It seems to me like the situation sounds a lot worse than it actually is. Still, being told to stay home for the bowl game and to miss out on all free junk they get I think is an appropriate lesson. I'd be more shocked if they DID play than if they didn't.
JC: Marrone's a fan of punishing players for doing ill-advised things, so I'd have to think they're both out. It's a shame too, given how well he's played. Rene? He plays?
SK: I will say no but I do get the sense that Marrone is lightening up on the whole "drop the hammer" thing. Especially if you're the kind of player that can produce on the field (see: Carter, Delone; Sales, Marcus). Don't be surprised if the punishment Spruill receives is lighter than you expected it to be.
How entertaining was Rutgers' choke job to end the year?
MM: You know, for whatever reason, I really never viewed Rutgers as a "rival" for Syracuse -- so watching the Scarlet Knights lose the last couple of games of the season didn't register all that high for me. It's the old chicken or egg question for SU football, who is its main rival? For me, that question probably won't be answered until the Orange line up against some ACC foes a few times. As for Rutgers, I actually think Coach Flood is doing a good job... *ducks*
CD: Fan-freaking-tastic. I mean, you always want your opponents to do well against everyone except you. But watching Rutgirls implode was sublime. I don't know what the B1G was thinking other than to try to nab a share of the NYC market. Don't they know that Syracuse is NY(C)'s College Team?
JC: Thank you again for that, Rutgers. The only time you've ever earned a piece of a Big East title in a men's sport, and it has to be shared with us. It's a fitting end to our time together. I'll always treasure it. Especially our 30-11-1 record against you all-time, and these entertaining threads celebrating your failure.
SK: It was pretty delightful to watch. And so it remains, for all their talk and all their swagger, that Rutgers' best seasons in the history of their program will have now ended in the Texas Bowl and Russell Athletic Bowl. As they head off to the Big Ten and 7-8 wins will be their ceiling, it's a comforting thought.
Any members of the Syracuse coaching staff that you see leaving for greener pastures this offseason?
MM: Not yet -- although Scott Shafer should be high on a lot of people's lists. I don't see Shafer becoming a head coach, yet, but I wouldn't be shocked to see him be offered a defensive coordinator position at a higher profile school.
CD: I couldn't name one member of the coaching staff outside of Doug Marrone, Tyrone Wheatley, Rob Moore and Nate Hackett. So I don't really know how well regarded they are. I know Wheatley has been a great asset in recruiting and I'm sure he's had a hand in SU producing three different 1000 yard rushers the last three years. If there's one guy I think would be on other schools' wish list, it's him. And I think that if Brady Hoke offered him a job, Tyrone would take it.
JC: Wheatley and Hackett are the real standouts from my vantage point. The job Hackett's done, transforming Ryan Nassib from average passer to one of the program's all-time best, has not gone overlooked. Wheatley's a five-star recruit away from getting a job up at Michigan.
SK: I've been convinced that Shafer is staying put for now because of his kids but I'm concerned a Big Ten school is going to snap up Tyrone Wheatley sooner than later. Dude can coach and dude can recruit. He's one of those assistants that, the better he does, the closer we are to losing him.
Where would the Orange have finished in the ACC this season?
MM: If the schedule played out right, I have no doubt Syracuse could have been a top tier team in the ACC. It wouldn't have won at a Florida State or Clemson, but SU could have done very well for itself given how down the league was and how vastly improved Syracuse was later in the season.
CD: I'm gonna cop out and go strictly by records. Assuming Syracuse could finish the ACC season with only two conference losses, that would put them in sole possession of second place. And even if we assume they lose the extra conference game that's played, they still are in a three-way tie for second at 5-3. The Big East might not be an outstanding football conference, but the ACC isn't exactly the second coming of the SEC either. I don't see any reason why the Orange couldn't have finished in the upper-middle of the ACC.
JC: Clemson and Florida State were the only ACC teams that looked overwhelmingly better than Syracuse this season. So I suppose we'd end up tied for third with the likes of North Carolina and/or Miami? I'm not rooting for down years like this, since it'll tear the conference apart. But at the same time, it gives us a pretty good chance to compete for a conference title, so I'm not complaining too much.
SK: You know, they probably would have finished about the same. 7-5 or so. Because we would have been in the Atlantic, we would have had to play FSU and Clemson. But, aside from them, no one else really scares me. If the ACC stays like this and we keep improving, it's not going to be nearly as daunting as we thought it might.