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Liberty Bowl

Pittsburgh (6-5) vs. Southern Mississippi (8-3)

Today, 12:30 p.m., ESPN

Site: Memphis, Tenn.

Series history: Pittsburgh leads, 2-0.

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Bowl records: Pittsburgh 9-9, Southern Mississippi 2-6.

How teams got there: Pittsburgh became eligible with surprise victories over Virginia Tech and West Virginia to close the season. The Panthers have victories in double overtime against Rutgers and triple overtime against West Virginia. Four other games were decided by five points or fewer. Southern Mississippi went undefeated in Conference USA.

The game: Fifth-year senior quarterback Pete Gonzalez (2,657 yards passing, 30 touchdown passes) was unable to hold the starting job until this season and is now considered a pro prospect. Gonzalez threw five touchdown passes in the 41-38 victory over West Virginia and has thrown at least one touchdown pass in every game this season. Wide receiver Terry Murphy (13 touchdowns), a junior college transfer, is Gonzalez’s favorite target. The Panthers are banged up in the backfield. Running back Dwayne Schulters is doubtful because of a groin injury and fullback Chris Schneider (knee) will sit out the game. Defensively, there is not much to boast about. The Panthers rank 94th in the country in giving up 420.2 yards a game and surrender 28.5 points a game. The Golden Eagle offense is led by junior quarterback Lee Roberts and senior running back Harold Shaw, who had 1,045 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns in becoming Conference USA’s leading rusher. The offensive line averages 306.8 pounds a man. Southern Mississippi ranks 11th in the nation against the pass--impressive considering the Eagles have faced four of the country’s top 15 passing offenses--and 18th in total defense.

PITTSBURGH (6-5)

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Southwestern Louisiana: W 45-13

Penn State: L 34-17

Houston: W 35-24

Miami: W 21-17

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Temple: L 17-13

Notre Dame: L 45-21

Rutgers: W 55-48 (2 OT)

Boston College: L 22-21

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Syracuse: L 32-27

Virginia Tech: W 30-23

West Virginia: W 41-38 (3 OT)

SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI (8-3)

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Florida: L 21-6

Illinois: W 24-7

Nevada: W 35-19

Alabama: L 27-13

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Louisville: W 42-24

East Carolina: W 23-13

Tulane: W 34-13

Cincinnati: W 24-17

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Tennessee: L 44-20

Houston: W 33-0

Memphis: W 42-18


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