Free College Football Bowl Picks and Spreads: SMU vs Pittsburgh 2012 Compass Bowl Game Vegas Odds, Free Picks, and Expert Predictions on ESPN 1/7/12: Not all the bowl games played after January 1 are considered among the most prestigious invites, and Saturday’s BBVA Compass Bowl isn’t exactly on the same level as the BCS bowls it is sandwiched between. That being said, the game still means plenty to the SMU Mustangs (7-5) and the Pittsburgh Panthers (6-6), who face off and try to end their seasons on a high note. The Panthers enter the matchup dealing with their second change at head coach in as many years, while SMU is dealing with major injuries. Both teams looking to overcome their own bit of adversity, Pittsburgh enters the game as a 3 ½-point favorite.
On the stat sheet, neither team is overly impressive on offense. Both teams are scoring just less than 26 points per game and are averaging between 350 and 400 yards of total offense. The Panthers lean more on the power running game, while the Mustangs spread out opponents and throw the ball more frequently. While both teams are about equal in terms of offensive production, it is worth noting that SMU struggled down the stretch. The Mustangs scored 17 points or less in four of their final six games, scoring seven points or less three times.
For SMU, the drop in scoring was a direct result of an injury to running back Zach Line. When he went down, Line had amassed more than 1,200 yards and scored 17 touchdowns. Needless to say, his absence has left the Mustangs without a significant part of their offensive attack. If SMU is going to compete Saturday, backup Rishaad Wimbley will have step up. The freshman closed the year with a career game, topping 100 yards. He will need a repeat performance to help the Mustangs get by Pittsburgh.
Ironically, the Panthers are without their top running back as well. Ray Graham was well on his way to being one of the top running backs in the country, but a knee injury sidelined him just shy of 1,000 yards. Pittsburgh has used a committee approach to replace Graham, but the Panthers simply don’t have another back that can wear down defenses as well. If Pittsburgh has an edge, it is the fact that the offense has had more time to adjust to the loss of Graham and have more experienced backups stepping into the role.
Quarterback play could be the X-factor for both teams. Pittsburgh’s Tino Sunseri and SMU’s J.J. McDermott both struggled with turnovers this season. Sunseri threw just 10 touchdowns compared to 10 picks, and while McDermott threw 16 touchdowns, he also threw 16 interceptions. The Mustangs do have the top wide receiver in Saturday’s game in Darius Johnson, but locking in on Johnson has been part of the problem for McDermott. In the end, the game may be decided by the mistakes each QB does or doesn’t make, rather than by the big plays they can create in the passing game.
While neither team is intimidating on paper, the Panthers’ dedication to the power running game should pay dividends. Pittsburgh has the better defense of the two teams, and with the ground game helping to keep the defense fresh by controlling the clock, the already inconsistent Mustangs’ offense could struggle to put up points. The game should be more about field position than big plays, and that style of play favors the Panthers.
Prediction: Pittsburgh Panthers (-3.5) Cover the Spread
Free College Football Picks and NCAAF Predictions: Pittsburgh -3.5 to cover the spread
|2012 Compass Bowl: Pittsburgh vs SMU
Time: 1:00 PM EST on ESPN
Vegas Odds – Favorite: Pittsburgh -3.5 Total: Over/Under 47.5
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