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Frank Schwab: Pitt 21, Ole Miss 17
Paul Chryst started slow in his first season as Pitt's head coach, but the Panthers started to play better by the end of the season. There is some talent on that roster, as shown when Pitt came so close to winning at Notre Dame. Ole Miss played well late too, but beating Mississippi State to get bowl eligible might have been its bowl game.
Graham Watson: Ole Miss 24, Pitt 17
This is a tough game because these teams are so similar on offense and defense. Pitt has been a lot better with ball security, but you never know which team is going to show up. At least Ole Miss has been consistent this season even if the wins weren’t always there. I think Ole Miss’ tough conference schedule helps pull it to victory.
Pittsburgh will be playing in Birmingham for the third straight year, but for the first time with the same man who coached the team during the regular season (Paul Chryst). Dave Wannstedt was fired prior to the team’s 27-10 win over Kentucky after the 2010 season before Todd Graham missed last season's 28-6 defeat against SMU to take over at Arizona State.
The Panthers boast a 3,000-yard passer and 1,000-yard rusher in the same season for the first time in school history. Tino Sunseri has thrown for 3,103 yards – the third highest single-season total by a Pittsburgh quarterback – while running back Ray Graham recovered from preseason knee surgery and has rushed for 1,042 yards.
Mississippi will be making its first bowl appearance since the 2009 season under first-year coach Hugh Freeze. Like Chryst – who was rumored to be a top candidate for the Wisconsin opening before Utah State's Gary Andersen accepted the job – Freeze will be staying put after signing an extension and leading the Rebels back to .500 after a dismal 2-10 record last season under Houston Nutt.