The 2018 Sun Bowl will pit the Pac-12 Conference and the ACC against each other this season. Stanford will face Pittsburgh on Dec. 31 (2 p.m. ET, CBS). Here is the 2018 Sun Bowl preview:
Stanford Cardinal (8-4)
The Cardinal opened the regular season with four straight wins and closed by winning three in a row. In between, they went 1-4, failing to hang with some of the nation’s best in Notre Dame, Utah, Washington State and Washington.
Star running back Bryce Love dealt with an ankle injury and managed just 739 rushing yards in 10 games after topping 2,100 last season. Love, who was also plagued by inconsistent line play, will sit this one out to prepare for the NFL Draft. However, quarterback K.J. Costello (3,435 passing yards, 29 touchdowns) and receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside (60 catches, 969 yards, 14 touchdowns) enjoyed productive seasons.
Defensively, Stanford held six opponents to 17 or fewer points, including two of the last three. It also forced six turnovers over those final three contests.
But the team’s biggest asset for this particular contest could end up being experience. Stanford is making a 10th straight bowl appearance, and second trip to the Sun Bowl in three seasons. It beat North Carolina at El Paso in 2015.
Pittsburgh Panthers (7-6)
Pitt surprised just about everyone by winning the ACC Coastal Division, and did so by beating bowl teams Georgia Tech, Syracuse, Duke, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest. The Panthers also got to this point thanks to a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in Qadree Ollison (1,190 yards, 11 touchdowns) and Darrin Hall (1,021 yards, nine touchdowns).
When they are not running the ball, the Panthers hope to rely on a defense that has forced 18 turnovers and recorded 29 sacks. However, that unit needs to improve after yielding a combining 594 rushing yards while losing the last two games against Miami and Pittsburgh.
And now that Pitt is in a bowl after missing out last season, it will try to avoid a fourth consecutive bowl defeat. The Panthers last played in the Sun Bowl in 2008, losing 3-0 to Oregon State.
Even without Love, Stanford should still have enough to handle Pitt, who went 2-5 in games away from home. The Cardinal played well late and their defense was slightly better down the stretch. There is hope they can end an underachieving season on a positive note.
Stanford 27, Pittsburgh 20
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