Two teams in their first seasons under new head coaches meet in a bowl game when the 6-6 Pittsburgh Panthers tangle with the 6-6 Mississippi Rebels in the BBVA Compass Bowl Saturday, Jan. 5 in Birmingham (1 pm ET, ESPN).
On the early Compass Bowl betting odds, Ole Miss was favored by 3.5 points for this game, with an over/under of 52. Of note, all six Compass Bowls have played under the total so far, according to the Compass Bowl odds history at OddsShark.com.
The Panthers, in their first season under new Coach Chryst, started poorly this year, losing to FCS Youngstown State and badly to Cincinnati. They then upset Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, and beat Gardner-Webb.
And since then Pitt has continued with that formula all season long, losing two games in a row, winning two in a row, right through to back-to-back victories over Rutgers and South Florida to end the regular season.
Ultimately, the Panthers won four of their last six games, and one of the losses was that game at Notre Dame they should have won, but for a missed field goal in overtime.
Pitt ended up at 3-4 in its last season of Big East play, “good” for fifth place.
Mississippi, meanwhile, is in a bowl game in its first season under new Coach Freeze, who led a team that went 2-10 last year to six victories. But while the Rebs started 3-1 this season, they lost four of their next six.
Ole Miss played some good teams along the way, losing to Texas, at Alabama, to Texas A&M (by three points), at Georgia and at LSU (on touchdown in the last half-minute). Then, with bowl-eligibility on the line in their season finale, the Rebs beat Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl 41-24.
Mississippi finished in fifth place in the SEC West at 3-5 and has an impressive recent bowl history when it comes to wagering.
By the numbers this season Pitt outgained opponents by a 400-326 yards per game margin, and outrushed foes 137-129.
Ole Miss outgained opponents 427-385 and outrushed 'em 170-133.
Mississippi, exceeding expectations this season, is 9-3 ATS, while the Panthers are 7-4 vs. the numbers.
This is the third year in a row Pitt is playing in this bowl. Two years ago the Panthers beat Kentucky 27-10, but last year they lost to underdog SMU 28-6.
Free BBVA Compass Bowl Pick: The Panthers finished their regular season well, while the Rebs needed that win over Mississippi State to snap a three-game losing streak. We'll take the points with Pitt, who opened at +2, but were +3.5 by mid-December. (courtesy of PickShark.com)