Pittsburgh Panthers vs. SMU Mustangs
The Pittsburgh Panthers and the Southern Methodist Mustangs match up in the BBVA Compass Bowl Saturday. The Panthers are -3 point favorites over the Mustangs with an over/under point total set at 47.
Pittsburgh enters it’s fourth consecutive Bowl by virtue of their season ending victory over Syracuse. In a strange turn of events head coach Todd Graham abruptly resigned to take over at Arizona State leaving defensive coordinator Keith Patterson to run the team Saturday. The Panthers were counting on a big offensive year under Graham but this unit proved to be little more than average 362 yards (#74) and 26 points with middle of the row rushing and passing attacks. Quarterback Tino Sunseri was under fire at times for some inconsistent play but he completed 228 of 357 throws for 2,433 yards with ten touchdowns and ten interceptions. Devin Street was the top option of the receiving corps with 48 catches for 692 yards with two scores while Mike Shanahan hauling in 35 balls for 443 yards and four touchdowns. Hubie Graham (27-307), Cameron Saddler (19-207) and Ray Graham (30-200) rounded out the top producers with three others accounting for 400 yards. The rushing attack was a shadow of it’s former self with Ray Graham (164-964) doing most of the work but he was lost for the year with a knee injury in week nine. Zach Brown is option number two with 336 yards on 82 carries with five scores with Isaac Bennett logging 215 yards on 48 totes and both will be expected to pick up the slack Saturday. The Panthers defense was #40 in the nation, allowing 355 yards and 22 points behind a rush D that gave up 122 yards (#23).
Interestingly, Southern Methodist head coach June Jones appeared to be in line for the Arizona State job but the big concern is getting a Mustangs squad prepared for a Bowl game after dropping four of six to end the season. SMU doesn’t standout offensively at 396 yards and over 25 points with a better than average passing game that posted 278 yards (#23). The passing game looked to belong to Kyle Padron but JJ McDermott took over in the first game of the season and had an above average year yardage wise. McDermott completed 256 of 430 passes for 3,182 yards with 16 touchdown but 16 interceptions which is much too high. Darius Johnson and Cole Beasley were nearly mirror images in the pass catching business. They combined for 151 receptions for 1,952 yards with nine touchdowns. Terrance Wilkerson (43-545) and Der’rikk Thompson (29-394) were quality targets with three others posting nearly 400 yards. The Southern Methodist rushing attack was never the focus of the offense but it was productive when used. However, the ground game was Zach Line with 208 carries for 1,224 yards and 17 trips to the end zone. Rishad Wimsley (34-163) and Jared Williams (31-140) will likely get the ball with Line out. The Mustangs gave up 351 yards (#36) and over 24 points and were #29 against the run, giving up 127 yards.
Without Graham Pittsburgh might go to the air more which might not be a great scenario with Sunseri making too many decision. McDermott has loads of talent but he is no stranger to making mistakes with 16 interceptions. Both defenses are strong against the run which might favor SMU if they can force Pitt solely to the air.
Pittsburgh Panthers -3 SMU Mustangs