Thomas Campbell-US PRESSWIRE
It's championship Saturday in Division I-FCS football, as Sam Houston State and North Dakota State battle it out for the FCS trophy. And in a game arguably much less interesting, 6-6 Pittsburgh faces 6-6 Ole Miss in the BBVA Compass Bowl.
The BBVA Compass Bowl is being played in Birmingham today. On January 5. Why? I don't know. It just is. You get a riveting matchup of two 6-6 teams, both of which were under .500 in their respective conferences. Appointment viewing it is not. But in case you find yourself captive somewhere forced to watch this game, the Worldwide Leader (which is televising this bad boy) gives you a preview:
The Panthers (6-6) will play roughly 750 miles from campus, but they're accustomed to Legion Field after splitting the last two BBVA Compass Bowls, losing 28-6 to SMU last season.
The team was led by interim coaches during its last two bowls, as Dave Wannstedt was fired two years ago before Todd Graham missed last season's defeat to take over at Arizona State. This time, though, Pitt will have the coach that guided it through the season on the sidelines.
Chryst went so far as to issue a statement of committal after his name was circulated as a potential candidate for the Wisconsin opening. He played for the Badgers and was their offensive coordinator for seven years before taking the reins at Pitt after the 2011 season.
Wisconsin eventually chose Utah State's Gary Andersen for the job.
"I feel fortunate to be here and I like what we're doing and I love doing it with the guys that we're doing it with," Chryst said. "That's a pretty good feeling."
Chryst guided the Panthers to a fifth consecutive bowl appearance, going 3-4 in their final season in the Big East before moving to the ACC. However, his optimism may stem from going 2-1 against ranked opponents, while his team nearly pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the season Nov. 3.
Pittsburgh fell 29-26 in triple-overtime at then-No. 4 Notre Dame after squandering a 20-6 lead to start the fourth quarter.
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While Chryst is staying put, first-year coach Hugh Freeze signed an extension that should keep him at Mississippi until 2016.
He seems to have Ole Miss on the road back after it went 2-10 last year and lost all eight games in SEC play. The team was 3-5 within the conference under Freeze, who feels returning to the postseason is a major boost.
"I think it accelerates our journey, our process," he said. "Not just the extra practices, but the extra media coverage ... we're one of the teams still playing."
The running game has surely helped, averaging 169.7 yards with 23 touchdowns.
Jeff Scott has rushed for a career-high 828 yards while reaching the end zone seven times. He carried the load against the Bulldogs, rushing 28 times for 111 yards.
This bowl game is in Birmingham. And as Randy Newman taught us, there ain't no place like Birmingham.
But wait. There's more! No, not another mediocre bowl game. IT'S CHAMPIONSHIP FOOTBALL! PLAYOFF STYLE!
The Division I, Football Championship Subdivision championship game is today.
|Saturday, January 5|
North Dakota State vs. Sam Houston State*
NCAA DIVISION I FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP
While Pitt and Ole Miss are duking it out on the ESPN mother ship, you can watch the FCS title game on ESPN2. It's top-seeded North Dakota State against unseeded Sam Houston State for the title, playing in Frisco, Texas. Bison and Bearkats! (Yes, I spelled that right.)
This is your open thread for the action. I expect the comments below will be burning up with activity. Watch for the overflow thread.