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New York may shrug off the Pinstripe Bowl

New York City is a big stage. The city has a way of focusing one's attention.

If something happens in New York, and it manages to cut through the clutter of a thousand other things, then everyone will know about it.

It's likely that the New Era Pinstripe Bowl game Saturday will not cause the city's considerable media to break a sweat. This is a pro town: the Yankees and Mets, the Knicks and the Nets, the Giants and the Jets.

West Virginia and Syracuse in a mid-level bowl game on a holiday weekend may be relegated to how it will impact traffic.

But even if the event does not move the needle in Gotham, it is of critical importance to Mountaineer Nation.

The 2012 regular season fell well short of expectations. The precipitous midseason slide humbled Mountaineers fans and shook their confidence in the still-fresh Dana Holgorsen era.

Forget that stuff about a bowl game being a reward for the players, coaches and their families. That suggests the outcome is secondary.

Maybe once upon a time, but not now, and certainly not this season.

The Pinstripe Bowl will have a dramatic impact on how this season is remembered and how fans perceive the state of the Mountaineers program through the long off-season.

Beat Syracuse and West Virginia will have clawed out eight wins, a bowl victory and finished the season with three consecutive wins. That's a momentum builder that tempers, at least in part, the October-November slump.

It will further prove that West Virginia is superior to what it left behind, since Syracuse won a share of the Big East championship. A victory puts one final exclamation point on the Mountaineers' exit.

The problem is that Syracuse is a respectable football team.

The Orange won five of their last six games, and quarterback Ryan Nassib has quietly evolved into one of the best quarterbacks in the country. He ranks in the top 15 nationally in four categories.

Their blitzing defense kept West Virginia on its heels all game last year, when the Orange handed West Virginia a stunning 49-23 loss.

Losing the game won't be disastrous, but it will be yet another indication of a disappointing season and it will leave a sour taste in the mouths of fans that will inevitably make comparisons to last year's Orange Bowl.

Don't forget that 2013 season tickets will go on sale soon. Losing six of their last eight games and saying goodbye to Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey will dampen enthusiasm for next year.

So, no, New York won't care much about the bowl game, and it's doubtful the Mountaineers and the Orange will be able to carve out much space on what is the largest stage in the world.

Ultimately, it won't matter much what New York thinks.

This game is for the West Virginia fans, and they'll be watching closely.

Kercheval is host of TalkLine, broadcast by the MetroNews Statewide Radio Network from 10 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday. The show can be heard locally on WCHS 580 AM.



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