In a match-up of two teams who have spent most of the last month engulfed in coaching turmoil, 7-5 SMU is a +5 point underdog to 6-6 Pittsburgh in the 2011 BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Alabama on Jan. 7.
June Jones, SMU's fourth-year head coach, was reportedly en route to Arizona State before the Sun Devils had a last-second change of heart, hiring former Pittsburgh coach Todd Graham instead.
Graham's departure in the dark of night, as he informed his player over text message that he was leaving, did not sit well with many in the Pittsburgh football program that has had a nearly unprecedented run on the head coaching carousel over the last 12 months.
Pittsburgh fired Dave Wannsted at the end of the 2010 regular season, with interim coach Phil Bennett (now at Baylor) taking over to win last season's Compass Bowl. They hired Michael Haywood in late December, before being forced to fire him after he received a felony domestic violence charge two weeks later.
Now, with Graham's departure, the Panthers will be coached by defensive coordinator Kevin Patterson before former Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst takes over after the bowl game, giving the Pittsburgh players six different head coaches in less than 14 months.
Lost amidst the coaching turmoil in Pittsburgh was the Panthers disappointing 6-6 season, as they beat only one BCS team with a winning record -- 7-6 Louisville.
SMU, in contrast, continued on their upwards trajectory under Jones, defeating arch-rival and national power TCU on the road in a thrilling 40-33 OT shootout.
Statistically, the two teams are fairly similar, with the Mustangs ranking 70th in the country total offense and 52nd in total defense, while Pittsburgh checks in with the 69th rated offense and the 34th rated defense.
With both programs dealing with off-the-field issues while playing in a non-traditional location very late into the bowl season, whichever team feels more motivation to play might have a decisive edge.