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CFN Compass Analysis - Ole Miss 38, Pitt 17

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jan 6, 2013


CFN's thoughts and analysis on the Ole Miss blowout over Pitt

Richard Cirminiello

Just how good is Ole Miss going to be once head coach Hugh Freeze is able to get more of his players to Oxford? He’s done a remarkable job in Year 1, transforming every aspect of a program that won only two games in 2011. Plus, whether or not top recruit Robert Nkemdiche becomes a Rebel, Freeze is going assemble a terrific class in February.

QB Bo Wallace was very good in his first season since reuniting with Freeze, a stark contrast from what the Rebs rolled out behind center a year ago. He’ll be even better with an offseason to rest his barking shoulder, especially if he finds a way to cut down on his turnovers.

Pitt won long before kickoff in Birmingham today. For the first time in three years, the program isn’t dealing with uncertainty and turmoil on the sidelines. The fact that Paul Chryst will be back for a second year with the Panthers is an overlooked and underrated sign of progress for the team.

The BBVA Compass Bowl is a classic case of the importance of the venue depending heavily on the teams that are involved. Not only did Ole Miss want to be here today, but so did thousands of their fans. The fact that the game itself has little historical significance meant absolutely nothing to the Rebels. Winning this game impressively is a very big deal; it props the team over the .500 mark, and provides it with a full head of steam entering next season.

Defense may not have been the Rebels’ calling card in 2012, but the unit has considerable room for growth next fall. Freeze started just a lone senior today, NT Gilbert Pena, and seven underclassmen. LB Mike Marry was everywhere against the Panthers, and the other Nkemdiche, Denzel, has been a hand-in-glove fit at Stinger at Ole Miss.

By Terry Johnson
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- Hopefully, Ole Miss' convincing win will end all of the conversation about the SEC's bowl woes, and what it means for Alabama's chances in the national championship game. Just like any other conference, the SEC had its highs and lows during the postseason. In the end, the league's bowl performance has nothing to do with which team will hoist the coveted crystal football on Monday night.

- The game ball belongs to the Rebel defense, which came into the contest ranked 15th nationally in sacks and 8th in tackles for a loss. They did nothing to hurt those numbers today, recording 4 sacks and holding the Panthers to a paltry 265 yards total offense.

- Believe it or not, the Ole Miss D could be even better next season if it's able to ink Robert Nkemdiche, the nation's top recruit, on National Signing Day.

- If the Rebels make some noise in SEC play next season, Bo Wallace will be the reason why. As he's done all season, Wallace had another solid outing today, completing 22-of-32 passes for 153 yards and 3 TDs. If he can cut down on the turnovers (2 ill-advised throws that resulted in INTs), Ole Miss could emerge as a surprise contender in the West.

- Even in a lopsided contest, bowl games can always help a team prepare for next season. For example, the Rebels found a new weapon in I'Tavius Mathers. The little-used freshman made the most of his so-called "garbage time" by running for 96 yards on just 6 carries. With this type of explosiveness, expect to see big things from him in the future.

- Paul Chryst's first season in Pittsburgh was a success. Even though Panthers finished with a losing record, the Panthers showed flashes of brilliance at times this year, including wins against Virginia Tech and Rutgers, and a near upset of Notre Dame. As long as Pitt continues to improve on offense, where it made huge strides this year, there's no reason why they can't compete in the ACC next season.