On Saturday afternoon the SMU Mustangs will face the Pitt Panthers for the 6th time in school history. It will be their first meeting since the 1983 Cotton Bowl, which SMU won and later claimed a National Title. But this is just a small side note to this game. Pitt is making its second consecutive trip to the Compass Bowl and to Birmingham. They won over Kentucky last year in the Compass Bowl.
Both teams will have a familiarity with the area, but SMU is 3-0 historically in the city of Birmingham. To make for an interesting game there are a lot of side stories going into this game with both teams. For starters both teams are going to be without the services of their starting running backs due to injuries. Also the Panthers will be coming into the game with an interim coach. In fact this will be the fourth head coach in a 14 month span since the untimely departure (firing) of Dave Wannstedt last year. Needless to say the coaching issue is “in the air” at Pittsburgh.
SMU had their own coaching issue during the layoff before the Compass Bowl preparations. Coach June Jones was supposedly ready to bolt to Arizona State University. Rumor has it before the contract was signed with ASU it was pulled off the table at the last minute. No definitive reason has been made public as to why this happened. However, June Jones has now re-committed himself to staying at SMU and honoring his existing contract. Coaching has become a carousel ride, you get on and you get off. Whatever happened to honoring contracts? I don’t know why they even bothering to sign them.
One final point about Coach Jones – he will be seeking his 100th collegiate win on Saturday. This would be a milestone on any coach’s resume.
These two teams on paper are a mirror image of each other. From a creditability standpoint there is a lot at stake for both teams. You always want to go out on a high note with a win and set up with something positive for next season. Obviously for Pitt, a loss in the game will make them a sub .500 team and also could be a hit to a program which is trying to “right the ship” after so many coaches bailing out of the program for other jobs.
SMU has already been guaranteed a winning record for the year, but an 8 win season always looks better on your stats than a 7 win season. A win in this game for the Mustangs will be adding another step to the climb upward they have experienced under Coach Jones. And obviously, a win will be impressive for SMU with their joining the Big East in 2013. The Ponies are on their way to being a big time program again…especially if they can keep Coach Jones here.
My gut feel is SMU will win this game and prove to be the better team. A lot of this has to do with the lack of drama surrounding the SMU program during game preparation. It should be an interesting and entertaining game either way. Both schools should be highly motivated.Please be sure to follow me on Twitter and Facebook