Pittsburgh will make its 27th postseason appearance as the Panthers play in a bowl game for the third consecutive season with this year’s trip to the BBVA Compass Bowl. The Panthers finished the regular season at 7-5 overall, and at 5-2 in the BIG EAST, earned a share of the conference championship.
Dave Wannstedt announced on January 3 that he opted to not coach Pitt in the bowl game out of concern that his presence would be a distraction. He has continued to assist the team in its bowl preparations, but defensive coordinator and former SMU head coach (2002-2007) Phil Bennett will act as head coach.
Wannstedt resigned under pressure on December 7th and Michael Haywood, who led Miami (Ohio) to the MAC title this season, was named as Wannstedt’s successor on December 16. Haywood was subsequently fired on January 1 after he was arrested and jailed on New Year's Eve on an alleged domestic violence charge against a woman with whom he has a child. The incident reportedly occurred at his South Bend, Indiana home.
DE Jabaal Sheard was chosen as the BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year after he had 52 tackles, nine sacks, 14.5 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and 15 quarterback hurries this season. Sheard became the fourth Pittsburgh player in the last three seasons to earn BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year accolades.
QB Tino Sunseri has completed 65.4 percent of his passes (214 of 327) and has thrown for 2,476 yards and 15 touchdowns with eight interceptions. The leading rusher is RB Dion Lewis, who ran for 956 yards and 12 touchdowns in the regular season.
RB Ray Graham ran for 832 yards and eight TDs. WR Jon Baldwin earned All-BIG EAST First Team honors after he had 52 receptions for 810 yards and five touchdowns.
OT Jason Pinkston earned All-BIG EAST First Team honors for the second consecutive season. S Dom DeCicco and K/P Dan Hutchins joined Baldwin, Pinkston, and Sheard on the all-conference first team. DeCicco has a team-high 85 tackles with five interceptions. CB Jared Holley also has five picks.
Kentucky will make its school-record fifth consecutive postseason appearance with this year’s participation
in the BBVA Compass Bowl. The Wildcats have made 14 previous bowl appearances and are 8-6 in postseason play.
Kentucky went 6-6 overall and 2-6 in the Southeastern Conference. The Wildcats registered their fifth consecutive season with at least six wins, marking the first time that has happened in Lexington since 1909-13. Included in the ledger was a 31-28 win against South Carolina that saw Kentucky erase a 28-10 halftime deficit.
Head coach Joker Phillips is the first Kentucky coach to take the Wildcats to a bowl game in his first season. Phillips played for two Kentucky teams (1983, 1984) that played bowl games at Legion Field.
WR Randall Cobb has named a first team all-America selection as a return specialist by Associated Press. Cobb leads the Wildcats with 79 receptions for 955 yards and seven touchdowns, is the team’s secondleading rusher with 401 yards and five TDs, has thrown for 58 yards and three touchdowns, and has accounted for 836 return yards with another TD on a punt return. Cobb is averaging 182.7 all-purpose yards per game, which ranks second nationally.
QB Mike Hartline, who threw for 3,178 yards and 23 touchdowns in the regular season, has been suspended by Phillips for the BBVA Compass Bowl. QB Morgan Newton is expected to start against Pittsburgh. Newton made eight starts when Hartline was injured last season, but has thrown for just 54 yards in four games in 2010.
S Danny Trevathan leads the team with 130 tackles and 16 tackles for loss.
NOTE: CollegeFootballPoll.com's Congrove Computer Rankings (a.k.a. CCR Top 120) give Pitt a 9.40-point edge, but the soap opera that has unfolded amid Pitt's head coaching future is not a consideration in the computer's pick. For the record, the computer is 8-4 in forecasting the winner of Panther games this season and 6-5 against the spread. It is 11-1 straight up with Kentucky, but just 4-7 against the spread. (Such information is tracked for the sole purpose of recording the computer's accuracy in picking games and ranking teams. It is not intended for gambling purposes).