Welcome, gentle viewers, to the inaugural BBVA Compass Bowl, the postseason football contest formerly known as the PapaJohns.com Bowl. (Its station in life does not appear to have improved appreciably.) The erstwhile Birmingham Bowl bills itself thusly: "Southern Hospitality. Serious football."
We have no doubt they mean this with all earnestness. We have eaten some fine barbecue in Birmingham, so we can attest to the hospitality portion, and attending a game at Legion Field does add a delectable edge of danger to the proceedings, but if the organizers of this shindig wanted serious football, they maybe should've picked teams that didn't go 2-6 in the SEC and suffer two losses (one real and one transitive) to 7-6 Notre Dame.
To the combatants! The 6-6 Kentucky Wildcats, operating under first-year head coach and longtime coordinator Joker Phillips, failed to capitalize on a hilariously weak year for the ever-stalwart SEC East. Though they edged eventual division champs South Carolina by a field goal in mid-October, their only other conference win was the traditional spanking of Vanderbilt, the only team to finish below them in the final standings.
The 7-5 Pitt Panthers took a more circumspect path to lowest-tier bowl relegation, losing a high-profile overtime road game to Utah on the opening day of the 2010 season. From there, they fell prey to then-No. 19 Miami, Notre Dame, eventual conference winners UConn, and West Virginia, leaving the unpalatable choices of Syracuse, Rutgers, Louisville, South Florida, or Cincinnati for a "signature win." They'll also be playing without the services of recently-ousted head coach Dave Wannstedt, so have fun with the "YOUR COACH DOESN'T EVEN LOVE YOU I BET YOU'RE ADOPTED" jokes on the sidelines, 'Cats.
The 2011 BBVA Compass Bowl kicks off at noon EST on Saturday, January 8. The game will be televised on ESPN.
Stay tuned to this StoryStream right up through game time, as we review key unit matchups, odds, bowl history and more, and connect with Wildcats and Panthers fans at SB Nation's A Sea Of Blue and Cardiac Hill. For a complete list of bowl games scores, and highlights, browse our 2010-2011 college football postseason schedule.