The Hyundai Sun Bowl will be played Monday, Dec. 31 at 2:00 pm ET. The game offers two unranked teams, as the Pittsburgh Panthers (7-6, 1st ACC – Coastal) play the Stanford Cardinal (8-4, 3rd Pac- 12 –North). The game will be played at the Sun Bowl in El Paso, TX. Our Sun Bowl free pick has Stanford at -4.5. The over/under is anywhere from 51.0 to 52.0.
The Cardinal looked good at the beginning, as they reeled off four wins in a row, including a 17-3 victory over #17 USC and a 38-31 OT win over #20 Oregon. But then Stanford lost to #8 Notre Dame 38-17 and a few games later to #14 Washington State 41-38. They did win their final three games. The Panthers never did quite find their way this season. Although they did run off four wins in a row from late-October through mid-November. That series included their lone top 25 win, which was over #25 Virginia 23-13. After those four wins, Pittsburgh finished the season with a loss to Miami and another to #2 Clemson.
Stanford – Analysis
Stanford averaged 29.6 PPG while allowing opponents 23.8 PPG. Of their 395.4 YPG in offense, 287.1 YPG were through the air. The Cardinal D gave up over 415 YPG to opponents, including 274.7 YPG in passing. The good news is that the Pittsburgh offense stresses the run.
Junior QB K.J. Costello (66.4 COMP%, 29 TDs 11 INTs) leads the Stanford offense. Costello has passed for close to 3,500 yards. Senior receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside comes to the game with 60 catches, 969 receiving yards, and 14 TDs. Unfortunately, senior RB Bryce Love, the team’s top ground-gainer, has decided to sit out the game in lieu of the NFL Draft. We expect senior RB Cameron Scarlett, who had six TDs on just 57 carries, to get the ball a lot. Our Sun Bowl free pick likes this Cardinal offense.
Pittsburgh – Analysis
The Panther offense averaged 26.5 PPG and 371.1 YPG. Of those 371.1 yards, 229.5 were on the ground. Their defense allowed opponents 401.1 YPG and 28.8 PPG. That included 184.1 YPG in rushing. They kept passing yards to 217.3.
Our Sun Bowl free pick sees the Pittsburgh ground attack as being this team’s bread-and-butter. The Panthers have three played with at least 105 rushing attempts and two 1,000-yard running backs. The good news for Pitt is senior star running back Qadree Ollison will play rather than sitting out the game for the draft. Ollison rushed for 1,190 yards this season. He scored 11 times while averaging 6.3 YPA. The Panthers also feature senior RB Darren Hall. Hall also rushed for over 1,000 yards this season, averaging 7.5 YPA and scoring nine TDs. Sophmore QB Kenny Pickett (60.1 COMP%, 12 TDs, 6 INTs) will be calling signals.
Five Keys to the Game
- Success of Stanford passing game essential
- Panthers bring a top-notch rush attack to this game
- Cardinal’s QB Costello can connect with receivers readily
- Pitt passing D is solid
- Panthers PF/PA differential in negative
Our Sun Bowl Free Pick
As we make our Sun Bowl free pick, we’ve got think that the Panthers have a chance. They’ll need to control the tempo of the game and hinder Stanford’s air attack. We don’t know if they will be able to do that. Thus, despite our doubts, we’re going with Stanford at -4.5. We’re also taking the over at 51.0. See our full list of picks and links right here.