- Pittsburgh’s defense allowed 301 yards and four touchdowns on the ground against Clemson, and the Panthers could face similar problems against Bryce Love and Stanford’s rushing attack.
Sun Bowl – Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Stanford Cardinal (-6.5)
Mon., December 31, 2:00 p.m. ET
Three things to know before betting on Pittsburgh-Stanford:
1. In David Shaw’s career with Stanford, the Cardinal are 4-3 straight up and 5-2 against the spread in bowl games. In minor bowl games (played in December), Stanford's record is 2-1 both straight up and against the spread. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh is just 0-2 both straight up and ATS in bowl games under current head coach Pat Narduzzi. Also favoring Stanford is the fact that the Cardinal are 9-1 against the spread when facing teams that average at least 5.9 yards per carry over the last two seasons. And while the Pac-12 has been a weak conference in recent years, one can make a very compelling case that Pitt's ACC was the worst of the Power 5 conferences this season. That would suggest that Stanford’s 8-4 record is even more impressive than Pittsburgh’s 7-6 mark.
2. Pittsburgh’s defense was either hot or cold all season. The team allowed more than 30 points in six games and 22 or fewer in the remaining seven. One constant was that the Panthers couldn’t get their rushing defense on track. Pittsburgh allowed 4.9 yards per carry—the 31st-worst mark in the nation. The Panthers also allowed 22 touchdowns on the ground. The defense was particularly awful in the ACC Championship Game against Clemson when the Tigers racked up 301 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. The Cardinal don’t have as good of an offensive line as the Tigers, but Stanford does have an explosive running back in Bryce Love. The senior was banged up all season, but he has had time to rest and get himself healthy. With his offensive line getting more time to prepare, Love should be able to run all over Pitt.
3. Over the final three weeks of the regular season, Stanford allowed 17 or fewer points twice. Pittsburgh’s offense should be relatively easy for the Cardinal to defend. The Panthers have two 1,000-yard rushers in Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall, but their reliance on the run makes Pittsburgh predictable. Laying off the run is definitely a possibility, but Panthers quarterback Kenny Pickett isn’t good enough to make the Cardinal pay over the top. Against Clemson, the sophomore completed only 4 of his 16 passes for eight yards and one pick.
Pick: Stanford -6.5
Confidence level: Moderate (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)