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It's been a long time since they played the last game of the regular season, but the SMU football team will take to the field again for the first time in 2012 when they play the University of Pittsburgh - better known as Pitt - on Saturday, January 7 in the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Alabama.

The match-up between the two teams has a second layer of intrigue that will undoubtedly be talked about by the commentators all game long. SMU head coach June Jones was all set to leave the Mustangs to take the head coaching position at Arizona State but a last minute change-of-heart retracted the offer and Jones was left to awkwardly explain to his players and the school what had happened. And instead of hiring Jones, Arizona State hired Pitt head coach Todd Graham, who decided to inform his players of his decision via text message.

Critics and experts aren't too high on this match-up, as both SMU (7-5) and Pitt (6-6) underachieved this season and are without the services of their star running backs. SMU running back Zach Line tore a tendon in his foot near the end of the season and had to undergo season-ending surgery. Pitt running back Ray Graham injured his knee back in late October and has been out ever since. Both running back were ranked in the top-10 in the nation at the time of their injury.

The offenses now fall on the shoulders of the quarterbacks and the passing game. Most experts would give SMU the edge in the passing game, especially with offensive mastermind June Jones on the sidelines. His Run 'n' Shoot offense is designed to put up prolific passing statistics and for the first half of the season, the Mustangs' passing offense was a juggernaut. Quarterback J.J. McDermott replaced last year's starter Kyle Padron and led SMU to a 5-1 record, including a big win over rival TCU. However, McDermott and the offense faded down the stretch, especially after the loss of Line, and managed to win only two of their remaining six games. The offense finished the season ranked No. 22 in the nation.

The Pitt offense is quarterbacked by junior Tino Sunseri, who finished the regular season ranked No. 40 in the nation. The quarterback passed for 2,433 yards, 10 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. However, the Pitt passing offense ranked in the lower half of the FBS at No. 75 with an average of 211 yards per game.

Defensively, SMU and Pitt are nearly evenly matched - SMU is ranked No. 62 while Pitt is No. 72 in passing defense while Pitt is No. 23 in rushing defense compared to SMU at No. 28. However, the one place that Pitt excels in comparison to the Mustangs is in turnover margins. Pitt is in the middle of the pack in turnover margins at No. 59. The Panthers are even in turnover margins. However, SMU is ranked dead last in the nation with only 14 takeaways and 31 giveaways.

Pitt is favored over SMU by 5.5 points but in all honesty, this is anyone's game. The Mustangs and the Panthers will begin play at noon.

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