This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features University of Pittsburgh Panthers taking on University of Kentucky Wildcats in the 5th annual BBVA Compass Bowl, formerly the Papajohns.com Bowl at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama.
Pittsburgh, 7-5, 5-2 Big East, Panthers head coach Dave Wannstedt announced his resignation shortly after the season ended after a 42-31 record over six seasons. That left his Alma matter in search of a new head coach in which they thought they had their man in Miami of Ohio Michael Haywood but after he was arrested on felony assault charges he was fired leaving the Panthers without a coach. Wannstedt, who originally planned to coach the Panthers in this Compass Bowl, changed his mind on Monday. As a result Pitt Athletic Director Steve Pederson has named defensive coordinator Phil Bennett the team’s interim coach.
Pitt is a rather mediocre offensive football team as it is averaging 26 ppg and 367.8 total ypg. Dion Lewis didn’t have as great a season as most expected but his 956 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns are impressive nonetheless. He gets plenty of help from Ray Graham, who brings 832 yards and 8 touchdowns into the game. While Lewis averages 4.9 yards per carry, Graham owns a far more impressive mark of 6.4 ypc.
As for Pittsburgh’s passing attack, Tino Sunseri has completed 65.4 percent of his passes for 2,476 yards with 15 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. His top target is clearly Jon Baldwin, who has hauled in 52 receptions for 810 yards and 5 touchdowns.
The man to watch on defense for Pittsburgh is Jabaal Sheard who has 14.5 tackles for loss and 9 sacks while adding 4 forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
Kentucky, 6-6, 2-6 SEC, Wildcats will be led in this showdown by first year head coach Joker Phillips as the highlight for Phillips first season was a victory over South Carolina which marked the biggest comeback in school history, as UK rallied from a 28-10 halftime deficit for a 31-28 win.
Kentucky quarterback Mike Hartline has been suspended thus ending the senior’s career as he was arrested and was charged with second degree disorderly conduct, alcohol intoxication in a public place and failure to notify the department of transportation of a change of address. As a result, sophomore Morgan Newton is expected to be under center. Newton has attempted just seven passes all season, as he watched Hartline complete 66.2 percent of his attempts for 3,178 yards with 23 touchdowns and 9 interceptions.
Randall Cobb, one of the nation’s most versatile players, threw three touchdown passes for the Wildcats while rushing for 401 yards and 5 touchdowns. Cobb, who also returned a punt for a touchdown, has done most of his damage from the receiver position, as he has hauled in 79 receptions for 955 yards and 7 touchdowns. Chris Matthews is another receiver to watch, as he has 57 catches into 897 yards and 9 touchdowns.
Kentucky is generating 33.0 ppg and 437.2 total ypg, numbers that will be difficult to reach considering Hartline’s suspension and the strength of the Pittsburgh defense. Derrick Locke has rushed for 816 yards and 10 touchdowns despite missing four games, and the tailback figures to get plenty of work against the Panthers.
This game marks the first-ever meeting between Pittsburgh and Kentucky.
PICK: University of Pittsburgh Panthers
This game goes down on the ESPN2 network and it features the Auburn University Tigers takes on the University of Kentucky Wildcats at Commonwealth Stadium.
Head coach Gene Chizik takes his undefeated Tigers to Lexington to improve on their 5-0 record and 2-0 in the SEC. The Tigers are close to being a one man show with Heisman Trophy hopeful in junior quarterback Cameron Newton, 928 yards 12 touchdowns 4 INTs and has rushed for 474 yards 5 touchdowns. Newton has provided an equal balance of nearly 200 ypg on the ground and air. Newton is completing 68.5 percent of his passes and carrying the ball for 6.2 ypc.
Two of Newtons favorite targets is junior wide receiver Darvin Adams, 284 yards 2 touchdowns, and sophomore Emory Blake, 173 yards 3 touchdowns. Newton also benefits from sophomore running backs Onterio McCalebb, 336 yards 2 touchdowns, and freshman Michael Dyer, 334 yards 2 touchdowns, to keep defenses guessing as who will carry the ball.
Defensively Auburn has success stopping the run only allowing 92.8 ypg on the ground at basically 2.6 ypc. The star of the defense is junior defensive tackle Nick Fairley who already has 11.5 tackles for loss and 5 sacks.
Head coach Joker Phillips tries to regroup his Wildcats after losing to Ole Miss 42-35 last weekend in which it drop them 3-2 overall and 0-2 in the SEC. Kentucky is lead under center by senior quarterback Mike Hartline, 1222 yards 8 touchdowns. Hartline has looked for senior wide receiver Chris Matthews, 287 yards 5 touchdowns, when going down field.
However the Wildcats are also a balanced team and have more than a few weapons besides Hartline and his arm. Kentucky has running backs Derrick Locke, 543 yards 7 touchdowns, and junior Randall Cobb, 121 yards one touchdown and catching for 335 yards 3 touchdowns. The Wildcats are averaging 36 ppg and 453.6 total ypg, and has converted on 44 percent of its third down conversion attempts.
Kentucky has two star players on its defense in junior defensive tackle Luke McDermott who has 3 sacks and junior linebacker Danny Treviathan who has 42 tackles including 8 tackles for loss.
Auburn owns a commanding 24-6-1 series advantage over Kentucky.
PICK: Auburn University Tigers