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College Football
Preview
Houston vs Pittsburgh
When: 12:00 PM ET, Friday, January 2, 2015
Where: Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas

LOCKHEED MARTIN ARMED FORCES BOWL STORYLINES

1. Neither Houston nor Pittsburgh will enter the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas, with the same coach they ended the regular season with, making it the only postseason game with that distinction this year. The Cougars parted ways with Tony Levine after he posted a 21-17 mark in three years and will turn to defensive coordinator David Gibbs on an interim basis to bridge the gap to recently hired Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman. Offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph will serve as the Panthers’ interim coach after Paul Chryst left to accept the head coaching job at his alma mater in Wisconsin.

2. Sophomore James Conner became the first Pittsburgh running back since Craig “Ironhead” Heyward in 1987 to garner first-team All-American honors, setting conference records for rushing and total touchdowns (24). The ACC Player of the Year is only the third Panthers back in the last 50 years to receive such an honor, also joining 1976 Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett. Despite being hindered by a hip injury late in the season, the nation’s fifth-leading rusher broke three of Dorsett’s 38-year-old single-season school records, including his rushing and total touchdown marks as well as points scored (144).

3. While the Cougars haven’t been particularly dominant stopping the run (31st in FBS) or the pass (29th), they still possess the 19th-ranked total defense. Four defenders were chosen as first- or second-team All-American Athletic Conference performers and three of them – defensive tackle Joey Mbu, linebacker Efrem Oliphant and safety Adrian McDonald – figure to play in a large role in slowing down Conner. The other Houston all-league defender is cornerback William Jackson, who will likely be tasked with chasing around Pittsburgh’s Tyler Boyd after he became the first player in ACC history to compile 1,000 receiving yards in both his freshman and sophomore seasons.

TV: Noon ET, ESPN. LINE: Pittsburgh -3

ABOUT HOUSTON (7-5, 5-3 AAC): Despite the possibility the school could notch consecutive eight-win seasons, the Cougars are likely wondering what could have been as all three of their conference losses were by seven points or fewer with a chance to win or tie the game on the final possession. Quarterback Greg Ward Jr. – a converted receiver – nearly sparked Houston to a win in relief in the first of those three losses and led the team to a 5-2 finish after replacing fellow sophomore John O'Korn for good on Oct. 11. Second-team All-AAC performer Kenneth Farrow led the league with six 100-yard rushing games and 12 rushing touchdowns.

ABOUT PITTSBURGH (6-6, 4-4 ACC): Boyd, who joined Larry Fitzgerald as the only Panthers to post two 1,000-yard receiving seasons in their college career, also leads the conference in punt return average (10.8 yards) and is averaging 28.7 yards on kickoffs, which would lead the league if he had enough attempts. However, for all the production on the field, Pittsburgh faces an uncertain future as the university announced it was parting ways with athletic director Steve Pederson on the same day it opened up its coaching search. Rudolph – also a Wisconsin alum – is not believed to be a serious candidate to replace Chryst and will reportedly follow him to Wisconsin if he is not offered the head-coaching job.

PREDICTION: Pittsburgh 23, Houston 20
Stats and Records
Team Comparison
  W/L Strk PF PA Home Away Grass Turf Conf
Houston 7-5 L1 29.3 19.5 4-3 3-2 1-1 4-3 5-3
Pittsburgh 6-6 W2 31.7 25.6 3-4 3-2 4-6 0-0 4-4
Last Meeting
Houston Pittsburgh
Date Away Home Tot Rus Pas Tot Rus Pas
9/13/97 PITT 35 HOU 24 474 271 203 285 134 151
Player Stats
Previous Matchup
Passing Player COMP % YDS TD INT
Houston N/A
Pittsburgh N/A
Rushing Player CAR YDS AVG TD
Houston N/A
Pittsburgh N/A
Receiving Player REC YDS AVG TD
Houston N/A
Pittsburgh N/A
Touchdowns Player TD
Houston N/A
Pittsburgh N/A
Season
Passing Player COMP % YDS TD INT
Houston G. Ward Jr. 67.9 1734 9 7
Pittsburgh C. Voytik 62.7 2011 15 7
Rushing Player CAR YDS AVG TD
Houston K. Farrow 164 939 5.7 12
Pittsburgh J. Conner 277 1675 6.0 24
Receiving Player REC YDS AVG TD
Houston D. Greenberry 68 746 11.0 4
Pittsburgh T. Boyd 69 1149 16.7 8
Touchdowns Player TD
Houston K. Farrow 13
Pittsburgh J. Conner 24
Quickchart Matchup
Houston Off vs  Pittsburgh Def
409.4 yards
348.7 yards
4.8 yards/rush
4.4 yards/rush
6.4 yards/attempt
6.7 yards/attempt
Pittsburgh Off vs  Houston Def
434.2 yards
335.4 yards
5.3 yards/rush
3.5 yards/rush
8.1 yards/attempt
6.4 yards/attempt