Saturday, November 22, 2014 · 8:57 p.m.

SEC bowl preview: BBVA Compass Bowl

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Ole Miss (6-6) vs. Pittsburgh (6-6)

Saturday, Jan. 5, 1 p.m. ET

Legion Field (80,601) • Birmingham, Ala. 

TV: ESPN (Eamon McAney, play-by-play; David Diaz-Infante, analyst; Paul Carcaterra, sidelines)

 

OLE MISS REBELS (6-6, 3-5 SEC)

Head Coach: Hugh Freeze (Southern Miss '92)

Overall/Years: 36-13 (.735)/Fourth Season

UM/Years: First Season

In Bowl Games: First Appearance (Did not coach ASU in GoDaddy.com Bowl in 2011)

National Rankings: BCS (NR); Harris (RV); USA Today (RV); AP (RV)

UM Bowl Appearances: 33

UM Bowl Record: 21-12 (.636)

UM Bowl Streak: W4 [Last: Def. Oklahoma State 21-7; 2010 Cotton Bowl]

Formations: Offense - Multiple • Defense - Multiple

 

KEY PLAYERS 

QB Bo Wallace (6-4, 204, So., Pulaski, Tenn.)

Wallace passed for 2,843 yards with 19 touchdowns, ran for another 363 yards and eight touchdowns and scored a touchdown on a 25-yard pass reception while logging a cumulative 144.20 quarterback rating this year, one of the best in the SEC and among the top 40 in the nation.

WR Donte Moncrief (6-3, 216, So., Raleigh, Miss.)

Currently in third place in Rebel history in both receiving yards (948) and receptions (60) in a season. His 10 TD catches this season are second-most among SEC players. He now ranks fifth in the SEC and 43rd in the NCAA with 79.0 receiving yards per game, and he's sixth among league players with 5.0 catches per game. In league play, his six TD catches are tied for third-most.

LB Denzel Nkemdiche (5-11, 203, Fr., Loganville, Ga.)

Leads Ole Miss with 78 tackles, 12.0 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and three interceptions this year. He is tied for eighth in the SEC and tops among freshmen with 1.0 tackles for loss per outing, while he ranks third among all freshmen in the nation. He’s one of just two SEC players that forced four fumbles in league play, along with SEC Defensive Player of the Year Jarvis Jones from Georgia.

DL Issac Gross (6-1, 254, Fr., Batesville, Miss.)

Gross started seven games this season and finished second in the SEC among freshmen with nine tackles for loss, trailing only Nkemdiche on the list. Gross had 38 tackles overall, including a season-high seven at No. 6 Georgia. Gross recorded 2.5 sacks on the year, including one at Georgia, one against Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M, and one at No. 2 Alabama.

PITT PANTHERS (6-6, 3-4 BIG EAST) 

Head Coach: Paul Chryst (Wisconsin '88)

Overall/Years: 6-6 (.500)/First Season

Pitt/Years: Same 

National Rankings: BCS (NR); Harris (RV); USA Today (RV); AP (RV)

Pitt Bowl Appearances: 28 

Pitt Bowl Record: 12-16 (.429)

KEY PLAYERS 

RB Ray Graham (5-9, 190, Sr., Elizabeth, N.J.)

Graham has been named first-team All-Big East for two consecutive seasons. In 2012, Graham has rushed for 1,042 yards on 222 attempts (4.7 avg.) and 11 touchdowns on the year, as well as 36 receptions for 340 yards and two TDs.

DL Aaron Donald (6-0, 275, Jr., Pittsburgh, Pa.)

Donald has been a disruptive force on the defensive line, leading the league in tackles for loss with 18.5 in 2012. Additionally, he totaled 63 total tackles, 5.5 sacks and a team-high 11 quarterback hurries.

WR Mike Shanahan (6-5, 225, Sr., North Huntingdon, Pa.)

Shanahan finished the regular season second in the league in receiving yards per game with 77.2. He has recorded 58 receptions for 926 yards (16.0 avg.) and a team-best five touchdowns. Shanahan ranks fifth at Pitt all-time with 158 career catches and is ninth with 2,219 career receiving yards.

S Jason Hendricks (6-0, 180, Jr., Brooklyn, N.Y.)

Hendricks led the Big East and is 11th nationally in interceptions per game with 0.42 (five total). His 73 tackles on the year also lead the Panthers and he twice led the team with 11 tackles in a game (vs. Syracuse and Buffalo).

SERIES/GAME NOTES

Record: First Meeting

SERIES: This will be the first ever meeting between Ole Miss and Pitt... The Rebels are 0-1 in bowl games against the Big East Conference, with the lone prior meeting against West Virginia in the 2000 Music City Bowl.

GAME NOTES: Ole Miss is continuing a rich bowl tradition with its 34th all-time appearance, which is tied for 19th on the NCAA Division I list of all-time bowl berths... The Rebels are 21-12 in bowl games, with the 21 wins 13th-most in college football...Ole Miss is 8-1 in its last nine bowl games dating back to a 13-0 win over Air Force in the 1992 Liberty Bowl. The Rebels' only loss during that span came during the 2000 Music City Bowl, falling 49-38 to West Virginia... Each of the Rebels' last three bowl appearances were in the Cotton Bowl with wins over Oklahoma State (2004 and 2010) and Texas Tech (2009)...The Rebels have experienced a dramatic turnaround under first-year head coach Hugh Freeze. They are 6-6 this season after a 2-10 campaign last year, and Freeze's up-tempo offense has yielded vastly improved conference and national rankings over last season...Freeze is the sixth Ole Miss head coach to guide the Rebels to a bowl in his first season at the helm. He inherited a team with a 14-game conference losing streak, projected to finish last in the SEC West in the preseason, and led the Rebels to three SEC wins and three near misses...Ole Miss knocked off Auburn, Arkansas and No. 24 Mississippi State, while nearly beating Texas A&M, Vanderbilt and No. 7 LSU after holding fourth-quarter leads against all three.

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