The hot stove league is winding down, and we’re counting the days until a pitch is thrown in Yankee Stadium again. Competitive sports haven’t abandoned the area however, as the Stadium crew has been prepping for the upcoming New Era Pinstripe Bowl on December 27. This year’s match pits the Michigan State Spartans from the Big Ten conference against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons from the Atlantic Coastal Conference (ACC).
The Pinstripe Bowl isn’t a top-tier bowl game by any measure, but it’s been a fun event since its conception in 2010 and has hosted a fair amount of quality games from prominent programs. The game is contracted out to the two conferences currently, and as such each one sends bowl-eligible representatives automatically when the bowl games are drafted up. There’s been a number of good matches in the bowl’s history, and we ranked some of the best games last year.
The problem with this year’s edition is that the choices they had to compete, really weren’t that good. The Big Ten was either 1a or 1b, depending on your perspective, with the SEC for top college football conference this year, with six ranked programs at the end of the year. Ohio State is going to the College Football Playoffs, and Wisconsin and Penn State both made it into the Top 10 to qualify for the New Year’s Six bowls. Holding up that mountain of talent at the top of the conference has been a host of terrible programs however, and Michigan State was barely able to separate themselves from the latter category.
Half of the Spartans’ wins this year came from a group consisting of Maryland, Northwestern, and Rutgers; a trio of teams that went a combined 8-28 this year. They were dominated by all of the upper-tier teams in their conference, and traded an upset win over Indiana for an upset loss to Illinois. The Spartans have bounced between being Playoff contenders and bottom-dwellers for several years, but of late it seems they’ve settled for mediocre.
The ACC has had a larger problem this year, being that outside of the Clemson Tigers going to the Playoff the rest of the conference has been unimpressive. Wake Forest is one of the better ACC teams, going 8-4 overall, but they did so largely by winning all of their out of conference games. North Carolina, despite being in conference, didn’t count because they’re in the opposite division, so hey they technically went above .500 this year.
The Demon Deacons were the larger pull talent-wise this year, but geographically they don’t make for as interesting a headliner as some of the previous ACC representatives have been. When more (relatively) local programs like Syracuse, Boston College, and Duke don’t perform however, you’re not left with a lot of options. And while Michigan State’s record is as bad as it is because they played quality teams in conference, Wake Forest only played against one ranked opponent all year, and they didn’t stand a chance against Clemson.
The Pinstripe Bowl will take this year’s match in stride, because ultimately it’s less about the prestige of the game and more about the experience for the players of getting a satisfying ending to their season. Sometimes they get an exciting clash of programs in the process, and sometimes they get what they’ve lined up for this year.