For a third year in a row, Pitt will head to Birmingham for the BBVA Compass Bowl. This time, the Panthers face SEC opponent Ole Miss.
The Rebels are under first-year coach Hugh Freeze, who guided the Rebels to a 6-6 season in his first year as head coach. Pitt also met an SEC opponent in the BBVA game two years ago, as they defeated Kentucky 27-10.
Ole Miss freshman corner Anthony Standifer had these school schools among his finalists. He verbally committed to the Rebels after signing day, and has played in three games this season.
Both teams became bowl eligible by winning their respective regular-season finale; Ole Miss a 41-24 over rival Mississippi State and Pitt with a 27-3 win over South Florida. The bowl game marks Ole Miss' first since 2009.
One thing that should help the Panthers this year in bowl preparations is the fact the program won't have to undergo a coaching change/search during preparations. Two years ago, just a few days before the team was to leave for Birmingham and begin bowl practices, the recently hired Michael Haywood was arrested in South Bend, Indiana for a domestic altercation. He was fired the next day. Three days after Pitt's win over Kentucky, Todd Graham was named head coach.
Just 10 days after accepting last year's bid to the game, Graham up and left to take the head coaching job at Arizona State. The team prepared for last year's game with a total of five coaches, including interim head coach Keith Patterson.
The players already like the fact they can just focus on the game this time around.
"This is the first year that I know that we're going to be able to carry over (from the regular season) and use these bowl practices for spring ball," quarterback Tino Sunseri said. "The last two years, we've been going through these bowl practices, and didn't repeat it in spring ball. It was kind of a waste of practices. It's huge for the young guys, and for everybody to get into the offense; get going there and try to keep executing."
"That's huge that Coach Chryst is going to be here. I can't say well enough the job Coach Chryst has done here. They've really brought in a coach that's going to win championships here."
Pitt is 12-2-1 all-time against the current slate of SEC schools. In addition to facing Kentucky, they defeated Georgia in the 1977 Sugar Bowl. Their lone losses came to South Carolina (45-21 in 1984) and Texas A&M (14-12 in 2002), though the Aggies were a member of the Big 12 at that time. In addition to having never faced Ole Miss in its history, the Panthers have never faced Alabama, Auburn, Vanderbilt or Mississippi State.
Tickets will go on sale to the general public for the bowl game at 6 a.m. Monday. Pitt season ticket holders were sent an e-mail late Saturday night after Pitt's 27-3 win over South Florida, allowing them to purchase tickets a day early before tickets are available to the general public.