When Ole Miss trailed Central Arkansas 20-14 at halftime of the first game of the year, it certainly didn't seem like Ole Miss was going to be headed to a bowl game this postseason. Hugh Freeze had taken over a post-Houston Nutt team, and there's oftentimes work involved in that process, and the first game was an indication that there was more work to be done.
Facing an even more difficult dilemma, several hundred miles up the eastern side of the country and far away from the minds of most SEC fans, was Pittsburgh. The Panthers actually ended up losing to their FCS cupcake, and Youngstown State's 31-17 victory didn't necessarily look like a fluke. The Panthers were emerging from the
Dave Wannstedt Mike Haywood Todd Graham yearlong fiasco that was a search for a head coach. Even in the Big East, a postseason bid seemed to be asking a bit much.
Both teams can claim wins over competent but not necessarily great competition. Ole Miss defeated Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl -- and that's about it. Pitt someone clubbed Virginia Tech and beat a Rutgers team that was actually looking good at that point in time. Of course, when you look at some of the other performances on either team's ledger, you're also going to come away with some that aren't too pretty.
For Ole Miss, the strategy has often seemed to be just be good enough. The Rebels are not particularly strong in any one facet of the game, at least not on average, but they did put together more than 500 yards of offense in each of their last three games, all against SEC opponents. Then again, Ole Miss went 1-2 in those games.
Pitt is largely in the same boat, though the Panthers actually have some credibility on defense. Most of the measures on that side of the ball put them in the Top 25. Meanwhile, Tino Sunseri has improved dramatically as a quarterback this year, throwing just two interception to 19 touchdowns. It will be a close win, but Ole Miss comes out on top.
Ole Miss 38, Pitt 34