This afternoon, college football fans are going to get to see 2 of the best quarterbacks in the country square off in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. Geno Smith from West Virginia commands a dynamic passing offense loaded with stars at wide receiver. Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib might not be a household name but make no mistake this is a young man with serious NFL potential, and a big performance today would really put his name out there.
But there’s just one small problem. New York is in the midst of a big winter storm, and so weather appears that it is going to be a significant factor in this game, and could seriously impact the play of both of these signal callers. I think most pundits expected this to be a high scoring affair, but this weather could change everything.
Smith has been up and down for most of the season. At one point in early October he had the Heisman Trophy all but locked up, and then he went through a stretch where Smith’s wide receivers were struggling to get open and he was not doing a good job going through his progressions. Forcing throws and taking hits that a little smart football could have avoided. This has been my criticism of Smith for the entire season.
However, the fact remains that Smith and the Mountaineers have weapons. Wide receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey are seriously explosive playmakers, and it’s going to be up to Smith to just get them the football and let them make plays. When field conditions are uncertain, the advantage always goes to the offense who know where they are going. I expect to see Smith use a short quick passing game to get Austin and Bailey the ball and turn short throws into long runs.
On the other side of the ball the Mountainteer defense has been bad. I mean really bad. Prior to the winter wonderland in New York I expected Nassib to exploit the West Virginia defense deep and while they still will take their shots, it could be the Syracuse run game that sets that up rather than the other way around.
For both teams is could come down to which team can establish some sort of run game in the inclement weather. And that again favors West Virginia who can line Austin up as a running back where he is nearly just as explosive as he is in the passing game. The snag is the West Virginia offensive line is struggling and minus their best player center Joe Madsen who is out of this game due to grades.
In the final analysis weather or not I think the West Virginia offense is going to be too much for the Syracuse offense to keep up with and the Mountaineers win going away. But if you are an NFL fan in need of a quarterback, this might not be the game you want to use to scout a potential pick.