Stanford Cardinal vs. Pittsburgh Panthers
Date and Time: Monday, December 31, 2018, 2 p.m. ET
Location: Sun Bowl Stadium, El Paso, TX
Opening CFB Odds: Stanford -6.5, 52
Stanford vs. Pittsburgh TV Coverage: CBS
The Panthers proved to be just good enough to handle the teams it was supposed and not even in the same stratosphere against their upper echelon opposition. How that translates in this New Year’s Eve tilt against one of the more mediocre Stanford outfits remains to be seen. PITT’s “MO” is to punish the opposition on the ground with its pair of excelled runners in Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall, and hope its beatable stop unit can hold the fort just enough to hold on for victory. The defense gets the benefit of Bryce Love sitting this one out.
Stanford kicked off its 2018-19 campaign like a house afire registering four straight wins and covers which concluded in a miracle comeback overtime win in Eugene against the Oregon Ducks. That was followed up with four losses in five tries which included those aforementioned defeats to the Huskies and Cougars which ultimately cost them a shot at winning the division. They did however close the season out in style with three straight wins that was capped off with a solid 23-13 win and cover in the “Big Game” at Cal, so the Cardinal should hit the turf in El Paso confident.
33:58 – This is the Panthers average time of possession over the course of the regular season good for the nation’s No. 6 overall ranking. It was able to accrue that gaudy statistic by way of Ollison and Hall ripping apart opposing defenses on the ground. The former nearly reached the 1200 yard plateau and scored 11 rushing touchdowns, while the latter went for just over 1000 yards and added nine more scores to the mix. Defensively, David Shaw’s squad was at its best limiting opposing ground attacks to an average of just 149.2 yards per game ( No. 44 ) at 4.0 yards per carry ( No. 41 ). If that duo runs into trouble, it will be up to Kenny Pickett to pick up the slack through the air against the Cardinal’s Achilles Heel defensively. Should that occur, PITT will hold the offensive advantage in this matchup.
Matchup To Watch
With Love suffering a myriad of injuries over the course of the regular season, the Cardinal rushing attack simply just wasn’t up to snuff. That forced K.J. Costello into the savior role of the offense, and he made the most of his opportunity by throwing for 3,435 yards and a 29:11 TD/INT ratio while completing better than 66 percent of his passes. Over Stanford’s three game win streak to close the year, the sophomore went on to throw 10 touchdowns to just a pair of interceptions. He’ll once again be asked to lead the team through the air against a Pittsburgh secondary that was the bright spot on the defense. The Panthers ranked No. 48 in the country in pass defense ( 213.5 YPG ) and only gave up an average of 7.0 yards per pass attempt ( No. 50 ). If Costello is unable to hook up with favorite targets JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Kaden Smith and Trenton Irwin, the Cardinal is going to be hard-pressed to do much offensively with it having limited options behind Love to make hay against the Panthers porous run defense ( No. 90 ).
Bet the Sun Bowl at BookMaker.eu
Though a bulk of the handle that’s come in on the Sun Bowl has laid the points with the Pac-12 reps, the number to beat has fallen to -5.5 in favor of the Panthers. That’s extremely telling in my book. It’s been all public money as well with the sharps yet to show their hand at the time of this writing. I’m having a hard time envisioning Stanford caring much about this matchup. It’s in the Sun Bowl in El Paso for crying out loud! That same sentiment doesn’t hold water with a PITT side looking to change the team’s tune in hopes of bringing the program home a bowl win for the first time since 2013. With that, I’m expecting Pittsburgh to run at the Cardinal early and often. When they think they’ve had enough, they’ll ramp the pressure up even more. If linemakers are eager to give me points at online sportsbooks, I’m more than willing to take them. Pittsburgh wins the Sun Bowl outright!
CFB ATS Betting Pick: Pittsburgh +5.5 & +190 at BookMaker.eu
CFB Score Prediction: Panthers 33 – Cardinals 23