Pinstripe Bowl: Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Northwestern Wildcats

New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Northwestern Wildcats

Date: Dec. 28, 2 p.m. ET on ESPN

Location: Yankee Stadium | Bronx, New York


Best moment: When you’re the only team to beat Clemson in the regular season, this is your best moment. As three-touchdown underdogs, Pitt went into Death Valley and knocked off the Tigers on a 48-yard field goal from Chris Blewitt to win 43-42, giving the Panthers their second top-10 win of the season after beating rival Penn State in Week 2.

Lowest moment: Of Pitt’s four losses this season, three have come by one possession or less. The Panthers’ Nov. 5 loss at Miami was the only tilt in which they were completely outplayed, losing 51-28 to a Hurricanes team that entered on a four-game losing streak. It was also the only FBS game in which Pitt failed to score 36 or more points.

Key player: You could go with Ejuan Price, the sixth-year senior end who finished second in ACC Defensive Player of the Year voting, or Quadree Henderson, who has four return touchdowns this season (including a nation-best three kick return TDs), or James Conner, who overcame a knee injury and cancer to post 1,060 yards and 16 touchdowns, giving him ACC career marks for total TDs (56) and rushing TDs (52).

Motivation level: High. Why wouldn’t it be? A win would make Pitt 9-4, a one-game improvement on Pat Narduzzi’s debut 2015 campaign. And it would likely ensure the Panthers finish 2016 ranked in the top 25. -- Matt Fortuna


Best moment: Northwestern's offense came to life in consecutive victories against Iowa and Michigan State that showed how good the Wildcats could be. Quarterback Clayton Thorson had six touchdown passes and one interception during that stretch to help put his team back on a path toward a bowl game.

Lowest moment: Northwestern's 9-7 loss to FCS foe Illinois State in Week 2 was a real stunner. It dropped the Wildcats to 0-2 following a season-opening loss to Western Michigan and demonstrated Northwestern was far from the team than won 10 games a year ago.

Key player: Wide receiver Austin Carr has been one of the more unexpected, remarkable stories in college football this season. Northwestern coaches didn't even actively recruit him, but he became the most productive receiver in the Big Ten this season. He and running back Justin Jackson are the pieces who can make the offense special.

Motivation level: Medium. No team wants to finish the season with a losing record, and Northwestern can avoid that with a strong performance in the bowl game. At the same time, this is not the bowl game the Wildcats expected coming off last year's 10-win season. -- Jesse Temple