Minnesota vs. Syracuse: 5 things to know about the Gophers' Pinstripe Bowl opponent
Minnesota will go bowling for the 7th time in 8 years, as the Gophers were selected to play in the Pinstripe Bowl Dec. 29 against Syracuse at Yankee Stadium in New York.
The game will kickoff at 1 p.m. CT.
Coach PJ Fleck’s Gophers finished an 8-4 season last week with a 23-16 win over Wisconsin in Madison to claim Paul Bunyan’s Axe. The reward is a trip to the hallowed grounds in the Bronx to tangle with a Syracuse team that finished 7-5 overall and 4-4 in the ACC.
The Orange were unbeaten entering a late October game at Clemson. But after dropping a narrow 27-21 decision to the Tigers, Syracuse went on to lose 4 straight thereafter before rebounding with a 32-23 win over Boston College to end the regular season.
Here are 5 things to know about the Orange:
1. Dino Babers can coach
Babers, in his 7th year at Syracuse, has done a nice job this year. Though he’s taken the Orange bowling just once prior, he had his team in contention in the ACC Atlantic all year. The Orange own wins over NC State, Purdue and UConn. They had Clemson on the ropes on the road. The seemed to come out of their midseason struggles against BC.
Babers led Syracuse to a 10-3 finish in 2018 and a trip to the Camping World Bowl. This is not his first rodeo.
The Gophers will have their hands full. Proximity of Yankee Stadium favors the Babers-led Orange. They’ll have fans in attendance and Babers will have his troops fired up for the game (relatively) close to home.
2. Offense is up and down
Syracuse has shown a propensity to put up points as well as lay a collective egg. Six times, the Orange have eclipsed 30 points in a game. Yet on a pair of occasions, they were held to 10 points or less. Hot and cold is a perfect description of this 7-5 team.
The Orange are led by QB Garrett Shrader. Shrader has thrown for 2,310 yards on the season. He’ll be tested by a stellar Gophers defense that finished 2nd in the B1G, giving up just 13.3 points per game.
3. Orange good in bowl games
This will be Syracuse’s 27th bowl appearance. They are 16-9-1 overall and have won their past 4. It will mark the 3rd time the Orange have appeared in the Pinstripe Bowl.
Syracuse’s .635 winning percentage in bowls is the 6th-best percentage of FBS teams with 15 or more bowl appearances. The Orange won the inaugural Pinstripe game in 2010 with a 36-34 win over Kansas State. It will be the 10th time Syracuse has played at Yankee Stadium, dating to 1923.
It will be the 2nd time the Gophers and Orange have met in a bowl. The teams clashed in the 2013 Texas Bowl, with Syracuse winning 21-17. Minnesota holds a 3-2 edge all-time over the Orange.
4. 6-0 start propelled Orange
Syracuse started the season red-hot. Posting a 6-0 record, the Orange were a top-15 team in late October. The close loss at Clemson started a 5-game skid. But the Orange flexed their muscles throughout the 1st half of the season.
Running back Sean Tucker went over 1,000 yards on the season with his 125-yard performance against Boston College. He is the 1st Orange player in over a decade to rush for over 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons.
The hot start included a dramatic 32-29 win over Purdue, the only common opponent between the 2 schools. The Boilermakers beat Minnesota 20-10 in October.
5. Stout defenses
A December game in the northeast could produce a low scoring affair. And with 2 solid defenses taking center stage, it looks like this year’s Pinstripe Bowl will be no different.
Syracuse brings the No. 29-ranked defense into the game. The Orange give up 338.1 yards per game and feature a star linebacker in Marlowe Wax. Wax has recorded 86 tackles on the season and the defense gives up less than 5 yards per play.
Expect a physical affair as these teams knock heads in what should be an entertaining affair. B1G and ACC bragging rights will be on the line. Fleck has a chance to get to 9 wins, which would be the 3rd time he’s accomplished that in his 6 years at the helm.