These are two up and coming programs, with teams better than their 6-6 records. We thought this might be a sneaky good bowl game. Hopefully, we were correct.
Pittsburgh: Paul Chryst inherited some disarray. When he accepted the job, he was the program’s fourth head coach in 13 months. He got off to about the worst start imaginable, losing at home to FCS Youngstown State and getting blown out by Cincinnati on a short week. They rebounded solidly. The Panthers’ one-point loss at Syracuse does not look so bad in retrospect. They took Notre Dame to overtime in South Bend. They outscored Rutgers and South Florida 54-9 the final two weeks to reach a bowl game. Chryst did not leave for the Wisconsin job.
Ole Miss: Hugh Freeze enacted one hell of a turnaround. Mississippi lead the country in moral victories, blowing fourth quarter leads against Texas A&M, LSU and Vanderbilt. Their 9-3 record against the spread was second best in the country behind Penn State. The coaching staff has shown equal enthusiasm on the recruiting trail. Still leading for No. 1 overall recruit Robert Nkemdiche, the Rebels will hope for a strong finish.
Sunseri Time: Tino Sunseri finished 18th nationally in passer rating. He threw the fewest interceptions, 2, of any quarterback who started the entire season. He has gone 270 passing attempts without one. His last was on Sept. 15 vs. Virginia Tech.
Prediction: Pitt’s offensive line is a work in progress, and not making much progress. They couldn’t protect Sunseri. They struggled establishing a conventional running game despite two good tailbacks in Ray Graham and Rushel Shell. Ole Miss was one of the better teams at getting to the quarterback and shutting down run games. Pick: Ole Miss [-3] Bowl Record ATS: 18-13-1
[Photo via USA Today Sports]