No. 22 Pittsburgh looks to cap good season in Pinstripe Bowl
Pittsburgh (8-4, ACC) vs. Northwestern (6-6, Big Ten), 2:15 p.m. (ESPN).
Line: Pitt by 5.
Series Record: 3-3. First meeting since 1973.
WHAT'S AT STAKE
The Panthers are trying to cap a solid season with a bowl game victory that would give the program a serious boost. The Panthers have wins over No. 2 Clemson and Big Ten champion Penn State, so losing to a 6-6 Big Ten team would end the season on a sour note. Northwestern was thumped in last year's Outback Bowl and would love to eradicate that feeling with a win in just the program's 13th bowl appearance.
Pittsburgh running back James Conner vs. Northwestern's defense. Conner is cancer free and wants to put the exclamation point on a fantastic personal and playing season in his final game. He ran for 1,060 yards with 16 touchdowns and was named college football's most inspirational player. Northwestern allowed 136.7 yards rushing per game this season which could allow Conner to have a banner day. But defensive lineman Ifeadi Odenigbo had 10 sacks and Godwin Igwebuike and Anthony Walker Jr. could cause enough disruptions to spoil Conner's college football farewell.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Pitt: QB Nathan Peterman. Yes, Conner is the key. But Peterman could have a field day against a Northwestern defense ranked last in the Big Ten in pass defense, allowing 264.9 yards per game. Peterman had 2,602 yards passing with 26 touchdowns, six interceptions and helped five receivers catch at least 20 passes this season.
Northwestern: WR Austin Carr. A former walk-on, Carr emerged as one of the top receivers in football. He led the Big Ten in receptions (84), yards receiving (1,196) and touchdowns (12). Carr has made numerous postseason All-everything lists and gets a chance to shine on a nationally televised game at Yankee Stadium. He needs one TD catch and 50 yards receiving to set Northwestern season records. He could get them against a Panthers defense that has allowed a whopping 343.1 yards passing per game and has allowed 13 receivers to go over 100 yards against them.
FACTS & FIGURES
Northwestern has only two career bowl wins and only one since the 1949 Rose Bowl. The Wildcats' only bowl victory in that span was the 2013 Gator Bowl. ... Pitt is playing in its 33rd bowl game and ninth straight. The Panthers are bowl staples, playing in 14 of the last 17 seasons. ... Pitt has not finished with nine wins and a spot in the final AP Top 25 since 2009. ... Northwestern RB Justin Jackson led the Big Ten with 1,300 yards rushing and became the first Wildcat to rush for 1,000-plus yards in three straight seasons.
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