Compass Bowl Preview
January 4, 2013
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PITTSBURGH PANTHERS (6-6) vs. OLE MISS REBELS (6-6)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Ole Miss -3.5 & 54
Opening Line & Total: Rebels -3.5 & 52
A pair of teams looking to avoid losing seasons meet in Saturday's BBVA Compass Bowl when Pittsburgh takes on Ole Miss.
Both teams are just 6-6 straight-up, but have both been outstanding wagers, with Pittsburgh going 8-2 ATS in its past 10 games and Ole Miss going 7-2 ATS in its past nine contests. The Panthers are playing in this same bowl for the third straight year, but they were crushed 28-6 by SMU last January. The Rebels have not lost a bowl game since 2000, winning four in a row, including three straight Cotton Bowls. Pittsburgh has held seven of its past 10 opponents to 17 points or less, while Ole Miss has scored 30-plus points on seven different occasions this year.
It’s hard to overlook the fact that Rebels head coach Hugh Freeze is 12-3 ATS as a favorite in his young coaching career, which spans last season when he was at Arkansas State, and then this season in his first year at Ole Miss.
Pittsburgh was an underdog of 5 points or less three times this season, and while the Panthers were able to cover a 1.5-point spread with a 1-point loss to Syracuse, they lost by 24 as a 5-point underdog to Cincinnati and by 10 as a 2.5-point home dog to Louisville. And since 1992, the Rebels are 14-3 ATS (82%) when facing good passing teams (250+ YPG) in non-home games.
Pittsburgh QB Tino Sunseri has been sharp all season with 8.6 YPA, 19 TD and just 2 INT, as he's currently gone nine straight games without throwing a pick. He is the biggest reason why the Panthers have the fewest turnovers in FBS (8) and post a strong +12 TO margin for the year. But Sunseri has not lit up the stat sheet in the past two BBVA Compass Bowls, completing just 28-of-47 passes (59.6%) for 279 yards (5.9 YPA), 1 TD and 2 INT.
But this time he will have the services of RB Ray Graham, who was injured for last year's postseason game, and ran for 90 yards on 5.3 YPC in the 2011 BBVA Compass Bowl win over Kentucky. Graham has 1,042 rushing yards (4.7 YPC) and 11 TD this season, including 529 yards and 6 TD over his past five games. In three games against Top 25 teams, Graham gained 399 yards on the ground with 5 total TD, helping his team win two of those contests with the lone defeat coming in triple overtime to Notre Dame.
The Panthers defense has been stifling in their past two games, holding Rutgers to six points and 207 total yards, then limiting South Florida to three points and 117 total yards. For the season, they rank 17th in FBS in total defense (326 YPG) and 21st in scoring defense (19.7 PPG). Pittsburgh excels in defending the pass, allowing just 197 YPG, 12 TD and 13 INT for the season.
Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace isn't the most reliable arm with 15 picks this year and five multi-INT games, but he does have 1,105 total yards (368 YPG) and 11 total TD in the past three games, all against bowl teams (Vanderbilt, LSU and Mississippi State). He also leads his team with eight rushing touchdowns. Fellow sophomore, WR Donte Moncrief, has been money in the past two games with 13 catches for 334 yards and five touchdowns. The school's leading rusher is junior Jeff Scott (828 rush yds, 6 TD), but he had gone four straight games with 50 rushing yards or less before his 111-yard outburst against the rival Bulldogs in their annual Egg Bowl meeting. Scott has found the end zone just once in the past six games combined.
The Rebels defense is average, allowing 28.5 PPG (66th in nation) and 385 total YPG (51st in FBS), but they do a nice job stuffing the run (133 YPG, 29th in FBS), holding their past three opponents to 93 rushing YPG on 2.8 yards per carry. The defense is also very capable of forcing turnovers with 18 takeaways over the past seven games.