35 Bowls in 24 Days: BBVA Compass Bowl

SMU head coach June Jones has the Mustangs in good shape again (AP Photo/Tamika Moore)

This afternoon in Birmingham, the BBVA Compass Bowl is where you can go to get your college football fix if the NFL won’t do. Though it isn’t a BCS bowl (and it’s really not even close), two programs will finish their 2011 season trying to get one last win.

More: See the other bowl games

Southern Methodist Mustangs (7-5, 5-3 C-USA) vs. Pittsburgh Panthers (6-6, 4-3 Big East), 1:00 p.m. [ESPN]

SMU is improving from the decades of shame following the death penalty, and head coach June Jones is a big reason for their success. He took the job after building a successful run at Hawaii, and his resources and coaching style are working in Dallas.

5-3 in Conference-USA isn’t great, but the Mustangs are playing in bowl games again, and that’s a lot better than where they used to be. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh is dealing with the departure of yet another head coach, as Todd Graham left for Arizona State. They’ve had about four head coaches in the last two years, and that has to be tough for the players.

SMU started the season 5-1 but lost four of their final six games to finish the regular season. That’s not a good sign for a team that’s looking to end the year on a high note with a bowl victory.

Keep in mind that both of these teams average nearly identical point totals per game — Pitt averages 25.8, and SMU averages 25.7. The one aspect of these two teams that stands out is the passing game of SMU quarterback J.J. McDermott, who has thrown for 3,182 yards and 16 touchdowns. The Mustangs rank No. 23 in the country with 289.9 passing yards per game.

But McDermott has also thrown 16 interceptions, and their ability to make mistakes is probably what has the Panthers favored by four points. It would be nice to see SMU win a bowl game today, but they have to limit the turnovers to get a victory.

Expect them to play well on offense, and expect Pitt to be very disoriented following the departure of yet another coach.

My prediction: SMU 27, Pittsburgh 14

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