Pittsburgh vs. UCLA (12/30 @ 2:00 p.m. EST.)
Line: UCLA -5.5
Pittsburgh vs UCLA Breakdown and Betting Odds
The Pittsburgh Panthers (8-4) and No. 18 UCLA Bruins (9-3) are playing in the Sun Bowl Friday at 2:00 p.m. ET. The Bruins are 5.5-point favorites. The over/under is set at 53.5 points.
This is the 15th matchup between UCLA and Pitt. They played every year from 1958 to 1972 other than 1965. UCLA won nine of 14 matchups including a six-game streak from 1964 to 1970. This will be the first time the schools have played in a bowl game with the previous 14 games coming in the regular season.
Pitt had a reasonable follow-up to the school’s best season in 30 years with an 8-4 season. They opened the polls at No. 17, but a Week 2 loss to Tennessee dropped them to No. 23. After back-to-back wins, Pitt dropped their first game in conference to Georgia Tech, and they have not been in the poll since. They rebounded with a win over Virginia Tech, but they then lost to Louisville and North Carolina to end their ACC hopes. However, Pitt did knock off Syracuse, Virginia, Duke, and Miami (FL) to end the year 8-4 and on a four-game win streak.
Pitt has an above-average offense, ranking 47th in scoring. They poured in 30.8 points per game. Their passing game was less-than-stellar as Kedon Slovis had just one more touchdown than interceptions, but Pitt had a top-tier rushing offense. Israel Abanikanda leads the ACC in rush attempts, rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, scrimmage yards, scrimmage touchdowns, and points. He leads the country with 20 rushing touchdowns and 21 total touchdowns. The junior running back has run for more than 1,400 yards. Despite the shabby performance from Slovis, Jared Wayne managed to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark, scoring five touchdowns.
Pitt’s defense was sturdy in 2022. They allowed just 3.2 yards per rush, and their opponents completed 55% of their passes. Pitt outgained opponents by about 83 yards per game. Sirvocea Dennis led the team with 94 tackles, and he had 12 tackles for loss and 7.0 sacks. Calijah Kancey was the team’s top pass rusher with 14.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. Deslin Alexandre (5.5), Solomon DeShields (4.0), and Dayon Hayes (3.0) also pitched in on the pass rush. Erick Hallett led the team with interceptions. Marquis Williams and Marlin Devonshire picked off two passes each, returning both for touchdowns. A.J. Woods only had one interception, but he led the team with 13 pass deflections. Hallett had nine pass deflections, and Devonshire had eight pass deflections. Three different Panthers forced multiple fumbles. All told, Pitt allowed 23.4 points per game, only allowing opponents to score more than 30 three times. They held two ACC opponents under 10 points.
Pitt went 5-7 ATS, particularly struggling early in the year. They opened a horrific 2-6 ATS, but they won three of their last four to close with a reasonable record. In the non-conference, Pitt was 1-3 ATS, but these were the first four games of the season. The over is 8-3-1 in Pitt games, hitting each of the last three weeks.
UCLA opened the season unranked, but they started 6-0 with key wins over ranked Washington and Utah squads. UCLA was as high as No. 9 in the polls, but they lost against No. 10 Oregon. They rebounded nicely to win their next two to get to 8-1. With three games left, UCLA was a serious Pac-12 contender and an outsider to make the College Football Playoff. However, they suffered back-to-back gut-wrenching losses to slip to 8-3 and No.17 in the polls. They beat Cal in their last game to end with nine regular-season wins. They reached their highest ranking since 2015, and they could win 10 games for the first time since 2014 if they win their bowl game.
UCLA has one of the best offenses in college football. They scored 39.6 points per game, a top-10 mark in the country. Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson had his struggles at times, but he tallied 37 total touchdowns including 25 passing touchdowns and 11 rushing touchdowns. Perhaps the best example of DTR’s erratic play was his performance against USC. He had six total touchdowns, 390 total yards, and three interceptions. Beyond Thompson-Robinson, Zach Charbonnet was the engine of the team. He led the Pac-12 in rushing yards, yards per attempt, and scrimmage yards. He surpassed his 2021 totals of 1,137 yards and 13 touchdowns despite missing two games. In the receiving game, Jake Bobo led the way with 54 catches for 789 yards and seven touchdowns. UCLA averaged an absurd 6.1 yards per carry, and they averaged over 500 yards per game.
The defense does not quite play as well as the offense. They allowed 28.3 points per game, 86th in the country. Even in UCLA’s wins, they allowed 30 or more points to South Alabama, Washington, Utah, and Arizona State. Their defense was particularly shambolic in losses, allowing 45 to Oregon, 34 to Arizona, and 48 to USC. UCLA has a stiff run defense, allowing 3.7 yards per carry, but they could be had in the passing game. Mo Osling led the team with 82 tackles. Laiatu Latu finished with 11 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, and three forced fumbles to lead the team. Grayson Murphy also pitched in with 5.0 sacks. Azizi Hearn led the team with six pass deflections.
UCLA is a rather average 6-6 ATS. They have had particular issues covering big spreads. They were double-digit favorites eight times. They were 4-4 ATS in those games, and they had a shocking loss as 20.5-point favorites against Arizona. Out of conference, UCLA failed to cover -48.5 against Alabama State and -15.5 against South Alabama. The over went 9-3 in UCLA games, hitting in three of the last four weeks. 53.5 is the lowest total for a UCLA game this season, and it is the first time they have had a total below 60 since their fourth game of the season.
Free Pick: Pitt +5.5
UCLA might be the better team, but they have gone 0-3 in their last three ATS. On the other hand, Pitt is 3-1 in their last four ATS. UCLA has had some turnover issues, and Thompson-Robinson can be prone to throwing the game away. For this game, take Pitt +5.5 in the event of a tight game into the fourth quarter or an outright win for the Panthers.