It’s been 86 years since Pittsburgh and Stanford last met on the football field, but these two historic programs are no stranger to the Hyundai Sun Bowl and should be ready to put on a show for the good people in El Paso, Texas, in one of the most storied and unique bowls of the postseason. Pitt leads the all-time series 2-1, and the three prior games involved Hall of Fame coaches Glenn Scobey “Pop” Warner and John Bain “Jock” Sutherland.
Stanford was last in the Sun Bowl two years ago, beating North Carolina 25-23. Pitt has not been in the Sun Bowl since 2008, when high winds and a defensive struggle resulted in a 3-0 loss to Oregon State.
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Pitt: No team in college football is more battle-tested than Pitt. The Panthers played a national-best 11 bowl-eligible teams this year, including 13-0 Clemson, 12-0 Notre Dame and 12-0 UCF. The accomplishments from this season, which include an ACC Coastal Division title, are the high marks for Pat Narduzzi as a head coach here in his fourth season with the program. When Miami and Virginia Tech started to sputter, Pitt found its identity in a bruising ground game that leaned on the experience and explosiveness of senior running backs Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall. Pitt ranked T6 among all FBS teams in rushing plays of 20+ yards on the season and No. 8 in the country in rushing yards per attempt against conference opponents (6.03). Look for Pitt to continue to lean on that ground game as it tries to notch its first bowl win since 2013.
Stanford: Bryce Love played in 10 games this season, battling both leg and ankle injuries during a year that saw him rush for just 739 yards and six touchdowns. He has already announced his intention to sit the Sun Bowl out in order to prepare for the 2019 NFL Draft — not a surprise, especially considering Christian McCaffrey’s similar decision in this bowl game two years ago — but Love’s absence doesn’t have a huge impact on the look of the Stanford offense in 2018. Among all 129 FBS teams, only Washington State had fewer rushing attempts this season than Stanford. Meanwhile, wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside emerged as one of the top pass-catchers in the Pac-12 and the Cardinal’s entire offensive identity shifted.