You are using an old web browser. Such browsers do not support modern web technologies and do not offer proper security. Please update your browser or download one of the others suggested for free.
Mozilla Firefox |
Google Chrome |
Internet Explorer |
Reason to watch: Both teams fought to become bowl eligible, so expect the Panthers and Rebels to play a close game. Pitt may have a .500 record, but it defeated two then-ranked teams -- No. 13 Virginia Tech and No. 18 Rutgers -- and barely fell to BCS-bound Notre Dame in triple overtime. Indeed, Paul Chryst's Panthers were a missed field goal away from handing the Fighting Irish their only loss of the year. Meanwhile, though Ole Miss failed to stage a major upset of its own (it went 0-4 against ranked teams), it came within 15 seconds of shocking LSU in Baton Rouge. The Rebels boast a dangerous ground attack, led by Jeff Scott and Barry Brunetti, who combined for 173 rushing yards in Ole Miss' pivotal Egg Bowl victory over rival Mississippi State in the regular-season finale.
ABOUT PITTSBURGH (6-6, 3-4 Big East): The Panthers – who will move to the Atlantic Coast Conference next season – will be appearing in a bowl game for the fifth consecutive year and have reason to feel optimistic about their chances after a 4-2 finish, including a near-upset of No. 1 Notre Dame. Graham has already solidified his place among the most productive running backs in school history as he enters his final college game with 3,271 yards rushing and 4,943 all-purpose yards – both good for second place all-time with the Panthers. The Panthers committed only eight turnovers this season – tied with Ohio for the fewest in FBS.
ABOUT MISSISSIPPI (6-6, 3-5 SEC): The Rebels are 21-12 all-time in bowl games and have won eight of their past nine in the postseason. Quarterback Bo Wallace, who paced the Rebels with eight rushing scores, leads a ground game that has scored 23 touchdowns and averaged 169.7 yards this season in Freeze’s spread attack. Wallace threw for 294 yards and five touchdowns in the team’s last game – a 41-24 victory over Mississippi State – but moving the ball may not come as easy since Pittsburgh’s defense ranks in the top 25 in several categories: total (16th), scoring (21st), pass (24th) and rush (tied for 24th).
About the Panthers: Pitt is going to its fifth consecutive bowl game after winning its final two games to reach bowl eligibility. This Pitt team has been hit and miss. At times – in a triple-overtime loss to Notre Dame, for example – the Panthers have shown flashes of being a fantastic team with a strong running game and a decent passing game. At other times, it’s been in total disarray. It’s hard to figure out which team is going to show up week-to-week, but coach Paul Chryst seems to at least have the program heading in the right direction led by senior running back Ray Graham, who has 1,042 yards and 11 touchdowns this season, and senior quarterback Tino Sunseri, who has passed for 3,103 yards and 19 touchdowns.
About the Rebels: Speaking of teams that appear to be headed in the right direction… After two losing seasons, including a 2-10 campaign that ushered coach Houston Nutt out the door a year ago, Ole Miss is competitive again. New coach Hugh Freeze has the Rebels believing as they were in almost every game last year. After going 0-8 in conference play a year ago, the Rebels were 3-5 and could have just as easily been 6-2. Ole Miss’ losses to Texas A&M, Vanderbilt and LSU – all bowl teams – were by an average of 3.33 points. Sophomore quarterback Bo Wallace is still kind of feeling things out, but led the Rebels with 2,843 yards, 19 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, and also rushed for 363 yards and eight scores.
* Under is 6-0 in Panthers’ last six bowl games.
* Rebels are 3-0-1 ATS in their last four neutral site games.
* Panthers are 5-1 ATS in their last six games overall.
* Panthers are 4-0 ATS in their last four non-conference games.
Keep an eye on: Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri, who hasn't thrown an interception in nearly four months. Since his fourth-quarter pick against Virginia Tech on Sept. 15, Sunseri has thrown 270 consecutive passes without an interception -- the longest active streak in college football. He finished the regular season with an astounding 19-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio. It's helped that Sunseri has been better protected up front this season. He was only sacked 34 times in 2012, as opposed to 61 times in 2011.