24 hours until game time! The final Pinstripe Bowl position match-ups include the Linebackers, Defensive Backs, and Coaches. The one thing that all bowl games have in common is the long break from the last regular season game played and the kickoff of the bowl. Each team gets at least three weeks to study their opponent and then make adjustments and make the best possible plan for victory. It all eventually lies on the shoulders of the Coach and that’s why they are the final piece of the match-up puzzle. Hit the jump for more.
LB Tre Walker… 28 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack, 1 INT
LB Jarell Childs… 30 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 FF
LB Blake Slaughter… 26 tackles, 2 TFL, 2 sacks,
LB Alex Hrebec… 32 tackles, 2 TFL, 9 pass defended
This unit has been forced to step up their play since the first game of the season. The lack of D-line production has made tackling duty fall to the second level. That’s brought added responsibility for gap run support and less of an ability to blitz and bring pressure. Of course, some of that is a result of the “bend, don’t break” defensive strategy Kansas State has employed but when a system fails at the first level, the second has to pick up the slack. The linebacking crew of Walker, Childs, Slaughter, and Hrebec have done what’s necessary but not much more. The biggest weakness for this group is lack of speed from sideline to sideline. They make up for it in hardnosed, smash mouth football and all sorts of gang tackling. Watch for lots of purple surrounding the ball at all times.
LB Marquis Spruill… 27 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 2 sacks,
LB Derrell Smith… 67 tackles, 8 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 1 INT, 3 FF, 3 FR
LB Doug Hogue… 57 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 3 sacks, 2 INT, 1 FF
Syracuse’s LB unit includes the top two tackle leaders, interception leader, forced fumble leader, number one and four in tackles for loss, and team sack leader. This spot is clearly a strength for the Orange. These guys will be all over the field and have athletic ability. That’s seen the best in Darrell Smith who has played RB, DE, Outside LB, and now Middle LB. Some see that as a guy who doesn’t fit, but I see it as a man who is gifted enough to move around, learn, and see playing time at various positions for a major FCS program. Expect to see them hassling Daniel Thomas’ rushing all day.
CB Terrance Sweeney… 29 tackles, 1 TFL, 2 INT, 2 FF, 1 FR, 11 pass defended
CB David Garrett… 64 tackles, 13 TFL, 3 sacks, 1 INT, 1 FF, 2 FR, 9 pass defended
S Tysyn Hartman… 48 tackles, 1 TFL, 2 INT, 1 FF, 1 FR
FS Ty Zimmerman… 39 tackles, 4 TFL, 3 INT, 2 FR
FS Emmanuel Lamur… 19 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack, 1 INT
Outside of the RB position, this unit has the most playmakers for Kansas State. Sweeney, Hartman, and Lamur are all solid players who make spectacular plays at times. Garrett has developed over the season into the best Corner on the team. And Ty Zimmerman has become a freshman sensation that Wildcat fans are giddy about having for the next three years. Just like the linebackers, these guys are always around the ball and play smash mouth football. Unlike the linebackers, these guys have some speed. They are the anchor of the defense and what they do or do not produce could easily be the deciding factor of the game.
CB Da’mon Merkerson… 15 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 2 INT,
CB Mike Holmes… 42 tackles, 4 TFL, 3 sacks, 1 INT, 1 FR
SS Shamarko Thomas… 36 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 FR
SS Max Suter… 30 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1 sack, 2 FF
FS Phillip Thomas… 54 tackles, 4 TFL, 1 INT, 1 INT, 1 FR
Syracuse’s defensive backs look like a solid group who do their job well. That’s backed up by being ranked #5 in pass defense giving up only 156 yards through the air per game. While the individual stats don’t look super impressive, the #5 ranking that places them above teams like Alabama, Wisconsin, and LSU can’t be ignored. Obviously playing in a different conference and against teams with different tendencies and ability might inflate that number a bit (just like Kansas State’s #52 ranking seeing as no team really needed to throw the ball against our #117 ranked rush defense) but it has to mean something. The good news for Kansas State, bad news for Syracuse, is that a couple of players for the Orange are out of this game for various reasons. Since the end of the season, 6 Orange players have lost their bowl game playing time.
Advantage: Kansas State
Kansas State: Bill Snyder
“Bill Snyder isn’t the coach of the year, and he isn’t the coach of the decade. He’s the coach of the century.” Barry Switzer
The man, the myth, the shoo in college football hall of famer! Who could worry about a man like this having a month to prepare a game plan? I can’t. Not that we didn’t have our coaching flaws this year, (cough… Chris Cosh… cough) but I still have faith in what Bill Snyder is going to pull out. 19 years of leading the Wildcats, 6 time national coach of the year, 11 consecutive bowl games, a stadium and highway that bear his name… it speaks for itself. Give HCBS this long to get his coaches in line and a gameplan ready… the results could be astounding.
Syracuse: Doug Marronne
This is only Coach Marronne’s 2nd year at Syracuse but he has made some impressive strides that not too many people saw coming. Syracuse went 3-9 (1-6 in conference) in 2008. That lead to the firing of Greg Robinson and in came Marrone, a former Orange player, from the New Orleans Saints where he served as Offensive Coordinator. He went 4-8 (1-6 in conference) in 2009, and has lead the Orange to a 7-5 (4-3 in conference) which is the first winning record since 2001, and their first bowl since the 2004 Champs Sports Bowl where they were crushed 51-14 by Georgia Tech. A victory in the Pinstripe Bowl would be the first bowl victory for Syracuse since the 2001 Insight Bowl when they defeated… you guessed it…. Kansas State.
Advantage: Kansas State (Sorry Coach Marronne, you didn’t have a chance)
Check back in tomorrow for a recap of the matchup and a final prediction!