Pitt Panthers vs. Ole Miss Rebels Point Spread – Pick Against the Spread

Pitt Panthers (6-6 SU, 8-4 ATS) vs. Ole Miss Rebels (6-6 SU, 9-3 ATS)
BBVA Compass Bowl Preview
Date/Time: Saturday January 5th, 2013. 1:00PM Eastern
Where: Legion Field Birmingham, A.L.
by Jay, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com

Point Spread: Pittsburgh +3.5/Mississippi -3.5
Over/Under Total: 52

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The BBVA Compass Bowl, formerly the Papa John’s Bowl, will take place Saturday January 5th in Birmingham at the historic Legion Field. This year’s match-up will feature a pair of 6-6 teams when the Pittsburgh Panthers meet the Ole Miss Rebels for the very first time. The Panthers had a rough start this season but rallied back to win 4 of their final 6 games which included that triple overtime narrow loss to no. 1 Notre Dame. Pittsburgh now needs to keep their momentum going against a solid Ole Miss team in hopes to end the year with a winning season.

The 6-6 Rebels will enter Birmingham as slight 3.5 favorites when they meet the Panthers. However, the betting public has thrown a lot of action on Ole Miss thus far with nearly 70% of all action favoring the Rebels. Despite sporting a measly 6-6 record, the Rebels lost 5 of those 6 games to teams that finished ranked in the top 25. The Rebels proved they are no pushover in many of those games taking both LSU and Texas A&M down to the wire. On paper, Ole Miss has been fairly average on both sides of the football ranking 46 and 49th respectively in total offense and defense.

QB Bo Wallace has struggled tremendously with decision making and has tossed 15 picks on the season compared to 19 touchdowns. The passing offense does house a great player in WR Donte Moncrief who has caught 60 passes on the year for 948 yards and 10 touchdowns. Moncrief and running back Jeff Scott will be key guys for the Rebels against Pittsburgh’s tough defense. Scott has rushed for more than 800 yards and 6 scores on the year including a strong performance in the season finale against rival Mississippi State. The Rebels will need for their key players to put up a strong performance again if they are going to top that strong Panthers defense that has given up just 14 points per game during the 2nd half of the season.

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The strength of the Rebels entire team is along the defensive front where they lead the SEC in tackles for loss and have racked up 2.83 sacks per game (14th in FBS). The play of the Ole Miss defensive front will be critical as they attack the Panthers’ two stars behind center. Running back Ray Graham is an excellent tailback that has rushed for 1,042 yards and 11 touchdowns on the season. Graham came up big against Notre Dame in that triple overtime loss rushing for 172 yards against the tough Fighting Irish defense. The bulk of Graham’s rushing yards have come during the 2nd half of the season and it will be interesting to see if Pittsburgh is able to run the ball effectively when they meet the Rebels.

However, the star of the team is senior QB Tino Sunseri. Sunseri is a 3 year starter that has become an extremely accurate passer. On the season, the Panthers quarterback has completed 66.5% passing for 3,103 yards with 19 scores and just 2 interceptions. Sunseri’s last interception came in the 3rd game of the season and he has now thrown 270 straight passes without an interception. The Rebels defense has had well known issues this season against the pass and have given up 251 yards per game (85th in FBS). A guy with Sunseri’s type of experience should be able to exploit those weaknesses and possibly make a few big plays down the field. The question is how many big plays will the Pittsburgh offense need?

Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I think the wrong team is favored in this game. Pittsburgh has the edge on both sides of the football and Ole Miss has given up big plays on defense this year. I like the Panthers to pull out this win. I’m betting Pittsburgh +3.5.

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