Compass Bowl Preview: Southern Methodist Mustangs vs. Pittsburgh Panthers
With just three bowl games to play, the Compass Bowl takes the stage on college football’s final Saturday, featuring the Southern Methodist Mustangs and the Pittsburgh Panthers.
The game will be played on Jan. 7 at 1 p.m. ET in Birmingham, Alabama at Legion Field. The game will be televised on ESPN.
Note: Rankings used are from my National Top 25 rankings.
Southern Methodist Mustangs
Record: 7-5 (5-3 C-USA)
Biggest win: at No. 18 TCU, 40-33 (OT), Oct. 1
Worst loss: vs. Navy, 17-24, Nov. 12
The SMU Mustangs got their season off to a horribly rough start, losing to Texas A&M by 32 points. In that game, the Mustangs replaced starting quarterback Kyle Padron, who once appeared set for potential stardom, with J.J. McDermott.
From there, things turned around quickly, as the Mustangs rolled off five consecutive victories, including a win over one of their biggest rivals, TCU. After that, though, the Mustangs lost four of their final six games, finishing with an unimpressive 7-5 record in a season in which their expectations were certainly higher.
With J.J. McDermott leading the way at quarterback, the Mustangs’ passing offense actually had a solid year, ranking 23rd nationally in passing offense. That said, McDermott has thrown the same number of interceptions as touchdowns, a very concerning statistic. Additionally, the Mustangs are without their only productive running back, Zach Line, who is out for the season with a foot injury.
The Mustangs rank 36th nationally in total defense.
Record: 6-6 (4-3 Big East)
Biggest win: at Louisville, 21-14, Nov. 12
Worst loss: at Rutgers, 10-34, Oct. 8
The Big East has certainly gained some respectability this week following West Virginia’s completely dominant victory over Clemson. That said, there has not been very much to respect about Pittsburgh’s season.
The Panthers barely squeaked their way into bowl eligibility, and only have one win this season over a bowl-eligible opponent, that coming against Louisville.
The Panthers rank 83rd nationally in total offense, and they are without their best offensive player, dynamically fast and quick running back Ray Graham, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Panthers game against Connecticut on Oct. 26. The Panthers rank 34th nationally in scoring defense with 22.4 points allowed per game.
Players to Watch
Pittsburgh DE Brandon Lindsey, Senior
NFL Draft Grade: Round 4 (OLB)
As Pittsburgh’s hybrid pass-rusher Brandon Lindsey drew more double-teams in his senior season, his numbers went down somewhat. Lindsey had 18 tackles for loss and 10 sacks as a junior, but just 11 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks in his senior year.
A big factor in Lindsey’s decreased production was that he played across from another terrific defensive end, Jabaal Sheard, last season, and therefore drew less double teams. With Sheard off to the NFL, opponents could focus in on blocking Lindsey, and even still, he had a productive season.
Lindsey currently rates as a fourth-round pick for the 2012 NFL draft, and could work his way into a Day 2 grade with a strong performance in the Compass Bowl. He is a good fit as a situational outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense.
Southern Methodist OLB Ja’Gared Davis, Junior
2013 NFL Draft Grade: Round 7, Undrafted
SMU’s defense has performed well this season, but they lack stars. Their best player is junior linebacker Ja’Gared Davis, who leads the Mustangs with 11.5 tackles for loss.
There is nothing special about Davis as a player, and he is undersized, so he is not much of an NFL prospect. That said, he has been the playmaker of the Mustangs defense this year, and should be expected to be a significant impact in this game.
Comparing the Two Teams
Wins vs. bowl-eligible teams: Southern Methodist 1, Pittsburgh 1
Losses vs. non-bowl-eligible teams: Southern Methodist 1, Pittsburgh 0
Southern Methodist’s passing offense: 23rd in nation, 277.8 yards per game
Pittsburgh’s passing defense: 72nd in nation, 233.3 yards allowed per game
Pittsburgh’s total offense: 83rd in nation, 362.2 yards per game
Southern Methodist’s total defense: 36th in nation, 351.1 yards per game
These two teams are bowl-eligible, but they are certainly not among the better bowl-eligible teams. Both teams have had their ups and downs, but SMU’s victory over TCU is the only truly impressive victory among them.
SMU has had its troubles at the quarterback position with J.J. McDermott replacing Kyle Padron, but McDermott has not actually played poorly as their starting quarterback. He has a one-to-one ratio of touchdowns to interceptions, but so does Pittsburgh starting quarterback Tino Sunseri, and McDermott has thrown for much more yardage.
Both teams have lost their top running backs to season-ending injuries: SMU will be without Zach Line, while Pittsburgh will be without Ray Graham. Pittsburgh defensively has the better defensive playmakers in this game, led by Brandon Lindsey, but both defenses have been solid but not great.
With two offenses lacking firepower, this should be a low-scoring game, but I think Pittsburgh has been hurt more by the injury to their running back, and that could lead to a victory for Southern Methodist.
Final Score Prediction: Southern Methodist 20, Pittsburgh 14