The Syracuse Orange look to extend their Pinstripe Bowl record to 3-0 all-time when they face the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
When these two teams meet, this is what we’ll be looking for:
Kevin: How will next year’s starters handle the spotlight?
The Orange will get an early look at young players like LeQuint Allen and Jeremiah Wilson in starting roles. Can these players show enough to instill confidence in the coaches and fans as we head into the off-season? This game isn’t as much about getting a win to close 2022 as it is about building momentum back for 2023.
Dom: Who holds the advantage at running the ball?
Minnesota enters the Pinstripe Bowl sitting in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten in rushing defense, but they’re generating the second-most rushing yards per game in the conference. This year’s Syracuse defense has struggled in the second half of the season to shut down the run game. Couple that with Sean Tucker declaring for the NFL Draft and not suiting up for the game, and it looks like the Orange will need to contain the Gophers’ rushing attack to keep pace in New York City.
Mike: Will Captain ‘Kel finish what he started?
Mikel Jones came back to the Orange to help get this group of players to a bowl. Now that they made it, ‘Kel appears to be suiting up for one final game in a Syracuse uniform right after declaring for the NFL Draft. With some stars like Garrett Williams still out with season-ending surgeries, and others unavailable due to transfer portal rules, Jones will need to ball out and rally the Mob for interim DC Nick Monroe.
Christian: Secondary battle
If Syracuse had a healthy Garrett Shrader, you could make the argument that the Orange would’ve defeated Pittsburgh and avoid the five-game losing streak in the middle of the season. I bring that up because Minnesota is built in a very similar way offensively to Pittsburgh - strength in the running back room with not much support in the passing game. Even with all the rushing yards the Panthers put up against the Orange, Pitt only mustered 19 points in large part due to the inability to move the ball in the air. Minnesota’s aerial attack isn’t great, and while redshirt freshman quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis has gotten better, he’s still only making his fourth start. That’s assuming usual starter Tanner Morgan isn’t playing, who hasn’t played since getting knocked out in an early November game. If Syracuse holds firm with its pass defense, even with key secondary pieces missing, the Orange has a chance to limit the damage Mohamad Ibrahim does on the ground.
Steve: How do the defensive front seven stack up?
It’s been said a bunch this year, but the Orange defensive front needs some loving to get it up to snuff in the ACC. While there was some portal help, I would assume we get some healthy audition time for some of the younger defensive linemen in this game. I would expect a healthy dose of Jatius Geer, Chase Simmons, Kevin Jobity, Elijah Fuentes-Cundiff as we not only try to win a bowl, but also start working out what some things look like for a depth chart heading into the offseason and prep for next year.
What will you be watching for in the bowl game?