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BBVA Compass Bowl preview

Just a few more College Bowl games to go to complete the season. Here's another preview by James Jack, @materialista27. And a reminder that if any previews aren't posted here, you should be able to find them on his dedicated College Bowl site.

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BBVA Compass Bowl

Saturday January 5th, 12:00 CST (18:00 GMT)
Legion Field, Birmingham, Alabama
Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Ole Miss Rebels


The BBVA Compass Bowl was originally created as the Birmingham Bowl in 2006 and has also been sponsored by Papa John's Pizza in its short history. The Bowl initially had a tie-in with the Conference-USA but they decided to rip that up in 2008 and signed a deal with the Big East and the SEC. It currently matches the 6th team from the Big East with the 9th team from the SEC, however in recent years, it appears to have become the Pittsburgh Bowl as this will be their third straight appearance, splitting the last two with SMU. Should this game follow that trend, Pittsburgh should win as they were dismissed 28-6 last year by the Mustangs.

As previously mentioned, the Panthers (6-6) finished 6th in the Big East and despite wins over Virginia Tech and Rutgers, they succumbed to (1)Notre Dame, (21)Louisville and then UConn and FCS 7-4 Youngstown State at Heinz Field, one of only two FBS teams to lose to an FCS team this season. Talk about an embarrassment. They are led by quarterback Tino Sunseri who has thrown for 3103 yards this season with 19 touchdowns and just 2 interceptions which is impressive considering the Panthers' weak offensive line allowed 34 sacks this season. Even considering their schedule, that's appalling. Running back Ray Graham rushed for 1042 yards and 11 scores for a team that ranks 91st in the FBS with just 137.4 yards per game, which by a quick calculation equates to 63.2% of their total rushing yards. Looks like he's doing this one on his own. More encouraging though is that 1st year Head Coach Paul Chryst has a pair of receivers that have topped 800 yards in Mike Shanahan (not the Redskins Head Coach) with 926 yards and 5 TDs and Devin Street who has 892 yards and 4 TDs. That may come in handy as despite their failures this season, Pittsburgh still rank in the top 20 in total defense (325.8 yards per game) and scoring defense (19.7 points per game)

The University of Mississippi, or Ole Miss is probably best known as being the alma mater of Bones McCoy, and that type of fiction is probably as close as the Rebels will get to the big time for a few years yet. After finishing the 2011 season 2-10 and 0-8 in conference play, the coaching staff was gutted and Hugh Freeze was brought in from Arkansas State. This year the Rebels improved to (6-6) and recorded famous wins over Auburn (almost everybody else did too) and Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl match-up. Though these wins are clearly a step forward, Ole Miss were humbled by (2)Alabama, (7)Georgia, (8)LSU, (9)Texas A&M, (22)Texas and Vanderbilt. If the Rebels want to continue to improve they need to get over the line against these teams, because if they can't win more football games, the fans may riot. Again. Bo Wallace has been an interesting watch at quarterback as despite his 2843 yards and 19 TDs, he's given up 15 interceptions. His favorite target has been Donte Moncrief who is 52 yards short of 1000 on the year and has pulled in 10 touchdowns. The running game has helped somewhat to take the pressure off Wallace and Jeff Scott reached a career high this year with 828 yards and 7 touchdowns. Defense has not been too bad at Mississippi and although they are allowing 385 yards per game and 28.5 points, they have lost to 5 BCS ranked teams and that's got to play a part in those numbers. Then gain, when they need defense at Ole Miss they usually get help from outside the school.

FOR PITTSBURGH TO WIN
Keep it tight, bottle up Bo Wallace and force him to throw into tight spots. Wallace has shown he isn't the most precise passer we've seen this month and the Pittsburgh defense should be able to bring enough pressure to force mistakes from the signal caller. They have to be tight to the receivers, but they have to remain disciplined as they are called for an average of 7 penalties a game, 93rd in the nation. Offensively they've been poor this season, but if the defense can hold the Rebels to under 17 points, then the offense should be able to get the job done as they protect the ball a lot better than Ole Miss. We also need to remember, this Panthers team is the only team to score at least 20 points against Notre Dame this season. If they can recapture that form, they can win this.

FOR OLE MISS TO WIN
Keep the ball on the ground and if you do have to pass it, make sure you find an open man. Turnovers can kill you in this type of low scoring defensive battle and with Bo Wallace's uncanny ability to throw the ball away, the Rebels have to do as much as they can to limit those chances and as they possess a decent rushing attack, it makes sense to use that. They've been impressive at times while defending and they will get a chance to attack Sunseri and add to their season totals of 34 sacks and 92 tackles for loss. They might even get a chance to avenge the University Greys and beat those pesky Unionists.

VERDICT
I'm not too pleased at where this Bowl sits in the schedule as it feels like a bit of a let-down after the BCS Bowls and the Cotton Bowl the previous night. The 12:00 start time in Birmingham isn't too attractive either, but in spite of all of those things, this should be an exciting game. I don't think you'll see a lot of points, this pair are no Baylor and Arizona State, but this should be a game for the purists, two defensively minded teams looking for any advantage they can find in advancing the ball down the field. The edge for me goes to the Mississippi front seven, they are much stronger then the Pittsburgh offensive line and despite how good your defense is, you can't win a game with a 0 on the scoreboard. I expect a lot of short yardage plays in the game, and quite a few punts.

ADVICE
Ole Miss -3.5
Under 54 points

DRINKING GAME
1 drink: Any Star Wars reference
2 drinks: Any sighting of a member of the Manning family, except Peyton, nobody likes a Volunteer.
Finish it: The security at the side of the field is beefed up by armed law enforcement

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