Sun Bowl: No. 18 UCLA (9-3) vs. Pittsburgh (8-4), Friday, 2 p.m. Eastern (CBS)
FanDuel Sportsbook College Line: UCLA by 5 1/2.
Series record: UCLA needs 9-5.
WHAT’S AT STAKE
UCLA seeks its first 10-win season in five years under coach Chip Kelly, who is appearing in his first bowl game with the Bruins. They were supposed to play in the Holiday Bowl last year but withdrew because of COVID-19 issues. UCLA lost two of three to finish the regular season after being 8-1 and ranked ninth. Pitt is trying to finish the season with at least five consecutive wins for the first time since 2001, when the Panthers won six straight capped by a Tangerine Bowl victory. It’s the first meeting between the schools in 50 years and the first bowl matchup.
UCLA QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson and the nation’s No. 3 offense against Pitt’s top 20 defense. Thompson-Robinson is one of two players in FBS with at least 25 touchdown passes and 11 scoring runs while leading a unit that averages 508 yards per game. The most yards allowed by the Panthers this season was 474 in a 42-24 loss to North Carolina.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Pitt: QB Nick Patti will get the start after Kedon Slovis transferred to BYU. Patti started the Peach Bowl loss to Michigan State last season after Heisman Trophy finalist Kenny Pickett declared for the NFL draft. Patti completed two of five passes before leaving with a broken collarbone in the first quarter.
UCLA: RB Zach Charbonnet is the other cog along with Thompson-Robinson in a high-powered offense. Charbonnet leads the nation in all-purpose yards (168 per game) and was the only Pac-12 player to average at least 100 yards rushing this season (136). There were questions of whether Thompson-Robinson and Charbonnet would opt out, but Kelly said they plan to play. Thompson-Robinson needs 285 yards passing to beat Cade McNown’s school record of 10,708 from 1995-98.
FACTS & FIGURES
Pitt went 11-3 last season and is trying for at least 20 victories over two seasons for the first time since 1981-82. … UCLA’s most recent bowl victory was in Texas during the 2014 season, 40-35 over Kansas State in the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio. … Pitt is making its fifth Sun Bowl appearance, most recently losing to Stanford 14-13 in 2018. The Panthers are 2-2 in El Paso, while the Bruins are 3-1. … UCLA is fourth nationally in rushing offense (246 yards per game) and has rushed for more than 200 yards its past five games. … Pitt has five defensive touchdowns for the second consecutive season, matching the school record first set in 1986. The Panthers are second nationally this season behind Western Kentucky (six).
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