So in case you weren't ready for it, Pitt has a bowl game on Saturday against Ole Miss. My thoughts on the game are pretty conflicted. I went into the first two editions of the BBVA Compass Bowl the last couple of seasons feeling Pitt would win each time.
This one? I'm not so sure.
Don't get me wrong - Ole Miss isn't exactly the best the SEC has to offer. The team is 6-6 and its signature win, if there is such a thing, is over Mississippi State (who, by the way, was just soundly defeated by Northwestern in their bowl game). But a closer look shows they're not to be taken lightly. There were the blowouts against Texas, Alabama, and Georgia, but those are pretty good teams. It's what Mississippi did against other good teams that should concern Pitt fans a bit.
The Rebels had a ten-point fourth quarter lead against Texas A&M before losing late. They had another fourth-quarter lead against nine-win Vanderbilt before losing by a single point. And in their most impressive showing, they had yet another fourth-quarter lead against LSU before losing in the final 15 seconds on the road. You can look at it say they haven't been able to close the deal, but the smarter way to view it would be that they've hung with some quality programs.
One thing that Pitt can do is force some turnovers in the passing game. The Rebels quarterback Bo Wallace has thrown for a fair amount of yardage, but he's also had 15 interceptions. He's been picked off in eight of the team's 12 games and has had five multi-interception games. He's even gone for a triple a couple of times, tossing three interceptions against LSU and Texas. But Pitt can't only focus on his arm - Wallace scrambles quite a bit and has rushed for nearly 400 yards and eight touchdowns this year. And unfortunately, there's also backup Barry Brunetti to prepare for. He's a dual-threat quarterback who's known more for his legs. He's rushed for more than 250 yards this year and a couple of scores. So Pitt had quite a bit to prepare for this week.
Then there's the home field. Technically this won't be a road game for Pitt, but in all actuality, it will. Ole Miss has not only sold a lot more tickets than Pitt, but bowl officials are expecting over 50,000 people. Make no mistake about it - Ole Miss, for all intents and purposes, will be the home team.
Don't get me wrong - this is a game Pitt can win. If they can hang with Notre Dame in South Bend, they surely can beat a 6-6 team. But it won't be easy - the offense will need to click and forcing a turnover or two won't hurt, either. I think it's going to be a close game, so yeah, Kevin Harper - looking at you.
Ole Miss isn't the type of team that does any one thing outstanding. But with a solid offense and defense, they are a pretty solid team. In addition, as proven by their rugged schedule, they're battle tested as well.
At first glance, this should be a close game, but I give the early edge to Ole Miss.