Kansas State also finished with 7-5, though only three of those were conference wins. The Big 12 was consistently one of the better conferences in college football, with standout seasons from Nebraska, Oklahoma, Missouri and Oklahoma State. The Wildcats registered wins against Iowa State, its archrival Kansas - a 59-7 drubbing - and Texas. Their résumé is also boosted by a solid out-of-conference win over UCLA. Ultimately, Kansas State finished third place in the Big 12 North and seventh overall. That was good enough to reserve a date in New York City,
With Syracuse and Kansas State so evenly matched, the game will likely come down to an old-fashioned battle in the trenches: Can Syracuse stop Kansas State's vaunted rushing attack? The Orange boast the nation's sixth-best defense and have allowed the 13th fewest points. Kansas State, meanwhile , finished 25th in points scored and showcases a dangerous running back in senior Daniel Thomas. Thomas led the Big 12 in rushing yards in 2009. This year, he tabulated 1,495 yards and 16 touchdowns, essentially acting as the Wildcats' one-man wrecking crew.
Syracuse's defensive front was the team's shining beacon in the first half of the season, but the November decline can be traced to the wearing down of the run defense. Whether the Orange can regain their ferocious wall in time for the New Era Pinstripe Bowl will likely dictate the end result.
Both teams are extremely enthused about playing at Yankee Stadium, a site which previously hosted Notre Dame's victory over Army earlier this year.
Unlike other baseball stadiums-turned football - Wrigley Field, for example - the dimensions at Yankee Stadium allow for a great viewing experience, even in the upper deck. With Notre Dame and Army's unbridled praise for the venue, the Orange and Wildcats are simply thrilled to put the first stamp on history.
This will be Syracuse's first bowl appearance since 2004, when they beat Georgia Tech, 51-14, at the Champs Sports Bowl -- and second of the millennium. A once-proud football school that contended for national titles, devoted Orange fans are viewing this New Era Pinstripe Bowl as an opportunity for restoring their program to prominence. A victory over Kansas State would go a long way in accomplishing that.
Unlike Syracuse, Kansas State has embodied more of the nouveau-riche in college football. Thanks to the stalwart leadership of coach Bill Snyder - who briefly retired before returning in 2009 - the Wildcats became perennial bowl contenders through the 90's and early 2000's. Though they also dropped off the map for a short while - their last bowl appearance being the 2006 Texas Bowl against Rutgers - there is now reason for optimism. By taking out a mending, old-time power like Syracuse, Wildcats fans can officially turn the page on the last three years.
Beyond the football game, both teams plan on arriving in New York City on Dec. 26 for a series of community events and city-wide festivities. Both squads will also ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange and tour the city's famous sites.