2012 BBVA Compass Bowl Preview: SMU Mustangs vs Pittsburgh Panthers

2012 BBVA Compass Bowl
Legion Field – Birmingham, Alabama
Southern Methodist Mustangs vs Pittsburgh Panthers
Saturday, January 7, 2012, 1:00 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN
Opening Line: Pitt -5 1/2
Current Line: Pitt -3 1/2
Opening Total: 48 1/2
Current Total: 46 1/2
Opening Money Line: Pitt -170 / SMU +150
Current Money Line: Pitt -160 / SMU +140

The Pitt Panthers are 3 1/2 point favorites in the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham against SMU Saturday afternoon.

The 7-5 SMU Mustangs of Conference USA take on the 6-6 Pittsburgh Panthers of the Big East in Saturday’s BBVA Compass Bowl. Though it might seem like a mediocre Bowl game, because it is, at least it is something to watch before the NFL Wild Card Playoffs start later in the afternoon.

SMU is coached by June Jones. Last month, he had accepted the Arizona St coaching job before ASU suddenly rescinded the offer. Ironically, the Sun Devils ended up hiring Pitt coach Todd Graham. Graham left the Panthers after one year as head coach, and told his players via text message a few days before Christmas. Defensive coordinator Keith Patterson will be the interim coach for the bowl game for Pitt. Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst will take over the Panthers next year. He will be the 5th interim/ permanent head coach in 13 months for Pitt.

The Mustangs have wins over UTEP, Memphis, TCU, Central Florida, Tulane, and Rice. SMU has losses to Texas A&M, Southern Miss, Navy, Tulsa, and Houston. All losses were to Bowl teams except for the Navy loss. That was their only close loss, as the others were decided by 24 points or more. SMU is 5-7-1 all-time in bowl games. This the third straight bowl appearance for the Mustangs. Last season, SMU lost to Army 16-14 in the Armed Forces Bowl.

The Panthers have wins over South Florida, UConn, Louisville, and Syracuse. Pitt has losses to Iowa, Notre Dame, Rutgers, Utah, Cincinnati, and West Virginia, all bowl teams. The Panthers are 15-12 all-time in bowl games. Pitt won this bowl last year 27-10 against Kentucky. The series between SMU and Pitt is tied 2-2-1, but they haven’t played since the 1983 Cotton Bowl. Before that the only previous meetings were all before 1948.

SMU averages 396 yards a game, including 277.8 passing yards, and 118.2 rushing yards a game. The Mustangs average 25.7 points a game. SMU has 31 turnovers and has allowed 27 sacks this season. The Mustangs are 68/171 on third and fourth down conversions, and 37/49 scoring in the red zone with 29 touchdowns. SMU allows 351.2 yards a game, including 223.9 passing yards and 127.3 rushing yards. The Mustangs give up 24.5 points a game. SMU has forced 14 turnovers and 27 sacks this season. Mustang opponents are 84/209 on third and fourth down conversions, and 34/44 scoring in the red zone with 23 touchdowns. SMU has 3 defensive/special teams touchdowns this year.

SMU quarterback J.J. McDermott is 256/430 passing (59.5% completions) for 3,182 yards, with 16 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. He took over early in the season for starter Kyle Padron who is out for the season with a broken foot. Running back Zach Line is also out for the season with a broken foot. He rushed for over 1,200 yards and 17 touchdowns, and had 15 catches in 10 games for SMU. Rishad Wimbley and Jared Williams will split the carries. Wimbley has 34 carries, 163 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Williams has 31 carries, 140 yards, and and a touchdown, along with 2 catches for 27 yards. Receiver Darius Johnson has 72 catches, 998 yards, and 7 touchdowns. Cole Beasley has 79 catches, 954 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Terrance Wilkerson has 43 catches, 545 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Der’rikk Thompson has 29 catches, 394 yards, and 3 touchdowns. Kicker Chase Hover is 34/36 on extra points and 8/10 on field goals with a long of 34 yards. Brad Namdar and Mike Loftus have both attempted a handful of extra points, and each missed a field goal in their only attempt. Linebacker Byron Brown is questionable with a head injury.

Pitt has averaged 362.2 yards a game including 151.7 rushing yards and 210.5 passing yards this season. Pitt is scoring 25.8 points a game.  The Panthers have allowed 56 sacks and have 20 turnovers so far this season. They are 64/188 on third and fourth downs this season and 40/43 scoring in the red zone with 29 touchdowns. On defense Pitt has allowed 354.8 yards, including 121.6 rushing yards and 233.2 passing yards a game. The Panthers are allowing 22.4 points a game.  They have forced 20 turnovers and 39 sacks this season. Pittsburgh opponents are 67/197 on third and fourth down conversions, and 29/33 scoring in the red zone with 19 touchdowns. Pitt has 3 special teams touchdowns this season.

Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri is 228/357 (63.9% completion) passing with 2,433 yards, 10 touchdowns and and 10 interceptions so far this season, along with 141 carries for 119 yards and 4 rushing touchdowns. Back-up Trey Anderson has 3 interceptions in his 33 attempts, but is out indefinitely with a wrist injury. Ray Graham was the star of the offense with 164 carries for 958 yards and 9 touchdowns, along with 30 catches for 200 yards. He is out for the season with a torn ACL. Zach Brown has 82 carries for 336 yards, and 5 touchdowns along with 25 catches for 184 yards. Brown is probable with a sternum injury. Isaac Bennett has 48 carries, 215 yards, and 2 touchdowns, plus 12 catches for 87 yards and a touchdown. Receiver Devin Street has 48 catches, 692 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Street is probable with a leg injury. Mike Shanahan (no relation to the Redskins coach of the same name) has 35 catches for 443 yards and 4 touchdowns. Hubie Graham has 27 catches for 307 yards, and 3 touchdowns. Cameron Saddler has 19 catches for 207 yards and 1 touchdown. He is also out for the season with a broken sternum.  Kicker Kevin Harper has made 32 of 33 extra points and has made  19 out of 28 field goals. He has a long of 52 yards. The Panthers have 10 players on the injury report, including 7 skill position players and 2 offensive linemen.

Pitt is 7-5 against the spread and the total is 5-7 this season. SMU is 4-8 ATS and the total is also 4-8 this season. The Mustangs are 11-23 as an underdog of between 3.5 and 10 points, 1-4 in non-conference games, 1-6 as an underdog, 0-5 after failing to cover, 0-6 overall, and 0-4 on turf. The Panthers are 4-0 ATS after a cover, 5-0 overall, 10-2 against teams with winning records, and 6-2-1 on turf.

Both teams are banged up, and Pitt has been the hotter team down the stretch. However, I am not sure how motivated the Panthers will be with a lame duck coach playing in the same bowl game for the second year in a row. I like SMU to pull off the upset in a close defensive struggle.

Our college football handicappers are red hot in the bowl season. Don’t miss out on any more winners as the college football season winds down.


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