Posted by Bryan Fischer
SMU WILL WIN IF: The Mustangs have no problem throwing the ball around in June Jones' offense but, this year, that has led to plenty of turnovers and they're going to have cut those down if they want to win this game. SMU is dead last in turnover margin - and it's not very close - and throws interceptions as much as they do slant routes (19 on the season). Pitt has shown flashes of being a good team despite their 6-6 record and if they keep getting extra chances to score, should find the end zone enough to win the game. But, if SMU can hold onto the football and the offense is sharp as it can be, a bowl trophy should find its way to the hilltop.
PITTSBURGH WILL WIN IF: Quarterback Tino Sunseri has to step his game up and come through with some efficient drives. Pitt was the definition of average this season with their record, an up-and-down ride through the year that did see them lose several close games and win a few others they could have lost. With running back Ray Graham out, the offense has stalled after going one-dimensional and Sunseri has been making mistakes that just make you scratch your head. The defense will have its hands full with SMU's offense so the team needs the offense to move the ball and limit mistakes and turnovers. Play within themselves and Pitt should end the season on a high note and give something new head coach Paul Chryst can build on.
X-FACTOR: Is either team motivated to be in Birmingham? SMU had their coach flirt with other schools in the offseason and Pitt makes a return trip to this bowl after an average season and their coach informing them via text message that he was headed to warmer climates. They're playing in one of those games in the lull between the title game and other BCS bowls so it's possible both teams come out lackadaisical and uncaring. Add in the fact that just about every coach for the Panthers is either gone or has an interim tag and you don't know how they're going to come out of the tunnel and play. Whoever does come out sharp and executes will likely end up taking home whatever type of trophy BBVA can come up with.