Stanford (8-4) vs Pittsburgh (7-6)
Date/Time: Monday, December 31st at 1 pm CT
Location: Sun Bowl in El Paso, TX
Conference tie-ins: Pac-12, ACC
Last year’s result: N.C State defeated Arizona State 52-31
Stanford bowl history
Stanford is 14-14-1 all-time in bowl games, including a 39-37 loss to TCU in last season’s Alamo Bowl.
This is the fifth appearance in the Sun Bowl for the Cardinal. They are 3-1 in the previous four games.
Stanford is appearing in their ninth straight bowl game. The longest prior bowl streak was three from 1934-1936.
Pittsburgh bowl history
Pitt is 13-20 in their bowl history, which includes a 31-24 loss to Northwestern in the 2016 Pinstripe Bowl.
The Panthers are appearing in their third Sun Bowl. They beat Kansas 33-19 in 1975 while losing 3-0 to Oregon State in 2008.
Five of their 13 bowl wins have come since 2001. (5-8 overall since then) However, they won six out of seven from 1975 to 1981 for their best timespan.
The Sun Bowl will be the fourth time these two have faced each other. Pitt leads the series 2-1 with the last game coming in 1932, which was a Panther win.
Key player to watch for each team
Stanford: Wide Receiver – JJ Arcega-Whiteside
Pittsburgh: Running Back – Qadree Ollison
Despite going 8-4, the Cardinal were certainly not themselves overall this season. The running game struggled some this year, particularly with Bryce Love banged up. A couple of bright spots on offense were K.J Costello playing well at quarterback along with star wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside. The offense is only ranked 71st in the nation as of now.
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However, the biggest surprise is on the defensive side of the ball. Stanford surprisingly turned in just the 79th ranked defense in the entire country. We are used to it being a top 20 defense at least. The main weakness is in the passing defense, ranked a porous 122nd overall. The good news for Stanford in this game, is Pitt has struggled in the passing game much of this season.
The obvious strength for Pitt’s offense is in the running game. Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall have formed a great tandem for the Panthers. However, the team struggles mightily in the passing game, which means they may not be able to exploit Stanford’s weakest area on defense. Pitt has not been amazing on defense by any stretch, so they may very well struggle to defend Stanford’s offense. Pitt did surprise everyone by making the ACC title game, so you never know what could happen.
On paper, the Sun Bowl appears to be a fun matchup with a passing team (Stanford) facing a running team (Pitt). Both teams have struggled on defense, which is uncharacteristic of the two head coaches. The game will likely come down to who can exploit the other weakness most effectively as well as who can make the most defensive stops. Seems obvious, but that is the reality.
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