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Pitt jumps back to the BBVA Compass Bowl

Pitt lost as many games as it won.

The Panthers were ineligible for a bowl game until Saturday, when they defeated Syracuse, 33-20.

In the end, that's the baggage Pitt must tote to the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Ala., for the second consecutive season, where it will meet Southern Methodist of Conference USA. The game will be played at 1 p.m. Jan. 7 at Legion Field.

The Panthers (6-6) accepted the bid Sunday night. The bowl has a $1.925 million total payout.

Pitt officials were in discussions throughout the day with officials from ESPN and the other, richer bowls with Big East ties, but the Pinstripe ($3.6 million), Belk ($3.4 million) and Liberty ($2.875 million) chose schools with better records.

Rutgers (8-4) will play Iowa State in the Pinstripe at Yankee Stadium, Louisville (7-5) will meet N.C. State in the Belk in Charlotte, N.C., and Cincinnati (9-3) will face Vanderbilt in the Liberty in Memphis, Tenn. West Virginia (9-3) earned the conference's BCS bid and will face Clemson in the Orange Bowl.

Pitt also had interest in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl ($1.075 million) in St. Petersburg, Fla., because the Panthers have never played in that game. But that bowl has a contract with Conference USA and opted to select Marshall to pair with Florida International. The result is that Pitt will play in the same bowl in two consecutive seasons for the first time.

All things considered, coach Todd Graham said he is happy to take his team to a bowl game in his first season. In the past 25 years, only Graham and Walt Harris have done that.

"You play an entire season to earn the opportunity for one extra game — a bowl game," Graham said. "Our team is excited for the chance to put that Pitt helmet on one more time for the BBVA Compass Bowl. Birmingham is a great college football town."

The Panthers defeated Kentucky, 27-10, last year, helping draw a crowd of 41,207, the second-largest in the bowl's six-year history.

Southern Methodist (7-5, 5-3) finished third in Conference USA's West Division, closing 2-4 after a 5-1 start. The Big East is 5-0 in the BBVA Compass Bowl, but Pitt is the first school to make a repeat appearance.

BBVA COMPASS BOWL

PITT (6-6) vs. SOUTHERN METHODIST (7-5)

When/where: 1 p.m., Jan 7, Legion Field, Birmingham, Ala.

TV/radio: ESPN, KDKA-FM (93.7), Pitt Radio Network

Payout: $1.925 million (total)

Series: 2-2-1

Scouting SMU: Quarterback J.J. McDermott, 6-foot-4, 227 pounds, threw for 3,182 yards with 16 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. ... SMU was 5-1 at midseason before losing four of its final six games.

Ticket information: Telephone the Panthers Ticket Office at (800) 643-PITT. The ticket office will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Tickets and travel packages can also be purchased online. Go to "Bowl Central" at www.PittsburghPanthers.com

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