- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Let's take a look at three keys for Pitt in the BBVA Compass Bowl against Ole Miss.
1. Steady Tino. Did you hear the one where Tino Sunseri has not thrown an interception since Sept. 15 -- a span of 270 straight passes (along with a change in the calendar year)? Believe it, people. Now, that streak has not exactly meant a perfect season for the Panthers -- they have lost four games since Sept. 15 -- but at least his ability to make better decisions has not meant unmitigated disaster for the Panthers offense. If Pitt wants to win this game, it's going to need another near mistake-free performance: no interceptions, no dumb sacks, no costly decisions. Steady as Tino goes, so go the Panthers.
2. Establish the run. Ole Miss has one of the better run defenses in the country, allowing just 133 yards per game and 3.6 yards per carry. But for Pitt to win this game, it is going to need to have another good performance from Ray Graham, who is playing his final game for the Panthers. In six wins this season, Graham is averaging 96.3 yards per game with nine touchdown runs. In six losses, that average goes down to 77.3 yards per game with only two touchdown runs. You see the trend.
3. Motivation. One of the most frustrating things about watching Pitt play this season was the way it played down to the level of competition. Lose to Youngstown State and UConn. Get pumped for games against Louisville, Notre Dame and Rutgers -- even though two of those ended in losses. With Pitt playing in this bowl game for a third straight season, what is the motivation going to be for this team? Ole Miss is making its first bowl appearance since 2009. It will have more fans in the stands too, which could give the Rebels an advantage. Pitt also is playing without a defensive coordinator, so you have to wonder whether that will have any impact. The bottom line question: Which Pitt team is going to show up?
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