Line: Pittsburgh by 3½.
Series Record: Tied 2-2-1.
WHAT'S AT STAKE
For the second straight year, Pittsburgh is attempting to overcome the loss of its coach by winning in Birmingham with an interim coach. Todd Graham left to coach at Arizona State and defensive coordinator Keith Patterson is the interim coach. SMU is trying to recover from a shaky end to its season. The Mustangs started 5-1 before losing four of their last six.
Pittsburgh secondary vs. SMU junior receiver Darius Johnson. Johnson has five 100-yard games this season, giving him nine for his career. He has three games with at least 10 catches. He has 72 catches for 998 yards and seven touchdowns this season.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Pittsburgh: After leading rusher Ray Graham went down with a season-ending knee injury in October, senior Zach Brown took a more prominent role. Patterson has indicated he may put more emphasis on the running game against SMU in an attempt to control the pace of the game. Brown, a transfer from Wisconsin, has 336 yards rushing with five TDs and 25 catches for 184 yards.
SMU: Quarterback J.J. McDermott is the leader of the Mustangs' run-and-shoot offense. He has passed for 3,182 yards, the second-best total in school history. But McDermott must protect the ball. His 16 interceptions helped SMU rank last among 120 FBS schools in turnover margin.
FACTS & FIGURES
Pitt defeated Kentucky 27-10 in last year's BBVA Compass Bowl. ... The Big East is a perfect 5-0 in the game. ... SMU and Pittsburgh were national powers when the Mustangs earned a 7-3 win in the Cotton Bowl following the 1982 season. ... SMU's June Jones is looking for his 100th win as a college coach. He is 99-69 overall, including 23-28 in his fourth season at SMU. ... Each team has lost its top running back to an injury. SMU's Zach Line had his season end with a foot injury in November after he had 1,224 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns. Graham injured his right knee in October.