BBVA COMPASS BOWL CAPSULE


KENTUCKY (6-6) VS. PITTSBURGH (7-5)

■ WHEN: 9 a.m. today

■ WHERE: Legion Field, Birmingham, Ala.

■ TV: ESPN (Mike Gleason, play-by-play; John Congemi, analyst)

■ LINE: Pitt -3½; total 52½

■ RECORDS VS. BOWL TEAMS: Kentucky 2-5, Pitt 4-5

■ NCAA SCHEDULE STRENGTH: Kentucky 91st, Pitt 40th

■ BOWL CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES RANKINGS: Both teams unranked

■ COACHES: Kentucky, Joker Phillips (first bowl); Pitt, Phil Bennett (interim coach, first bowl)

■ WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH: We wouldn't go so far as to say this is an appetizer for today's NFL wild-card games; it's more like a late breakfast -- one that has grown cold. Pitt is looking to salvage something from a disappointing season. Kentucky went 2-6 in the Southeastern Conference, but the Wildcats still have a shot at their fourth bowl win in the past five seasons. Keep an eye on the two star wide receivers -- Randall Cobb of Kentucky and Jonathan Baldwin of Pitt.

■ KEY STATS: Kentucky was 4-1 this season when running back Derrick Locke rushed for at least 100 yards and 2-5 in games when he didn't. Pittsburgh allowed only one running back to top 100 yards rushing this season, Connecticut's Jordan Todman (222 yards).

■ X-FACTOR: How will the coaching changes affect the teams? Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt isn't the only absence. Panthers offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti won't coach in the bowl game after taking the same job at Rutgers. Tight ends coach Brian Angelichio will call plays for Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, Kentucky added former Cincinnati coach and veteran defensive assistant Rick Minter as co-defensive coordinator last month. The changes in leadership could lead to wrinkles on the field -- or confusion.

■ KENTUCKY WILL WIN IF: Locke is the key for the Wildcats. His performance will be especially magnified by Kentucky's quarterback situation -- 2009 starter Morgan Newton is back under center in place of the suspended Mike Hartline.

■ PITTSBURGH WILL WIN IF: Dion Lewis and Ray Graham must run the ball consistently. It doesn't matter which one does it or if they split time doing it. Pittsburgh went 5-0 when rushing for 150 yards or more as a team and 2-5 when failing to do so. One or both running backs needs to take advantage of Kentucky's porous rush defense to open the passing game for first-year quarterback Tino Sunseri.

■ PREDICTION: Kentucky 21, Pitt 10

DAVID FOX/RIVALS.COM

 

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