The Pitt Panthers will field a remarkably different roster when they face UCLA No. 18 in the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl this Friday. It will be Pitt’s 37th all-time post-season appearance and sixth under the head coach. Pat Narduzzi. These two teams will meet for the first time in 50 years. UCLA defeated Pitt 38-28 at Pitt Stadium on September 16, 1972. Pitt finished the regular season with an overall record of 8-5 (5-3 ACC) while UCLA finished the regular season with an overall record 9-3 overall. (6-3 IPC-12).
WHAT: Tony The Tiger Bowl of Sunshine | El Paso, Texas
WHEN: December 30, 2022 | 2 p.m. ET (noon, MT)
WHERE: Sun Bowl Stadium
HOW TO WATCH: CBS
HOW TO STREAM LIVE: Fubo TV
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LIKELY STARTING OFFENCE, DEFENSE AND SPECIAL TEAMS FOR PITT AND UCLA
LIKELY PITT STARTING OFFENSE
QB: No. 12 Nick Patti | 6-3 | 225 | SR*
RB: No. 6 Rodney Hammond | 5-9 | 200 | SO
WR: No. 5 Jared Wayne | 6-3 | 210 | RS
WR: No. 14 Konata Mumpfield | 6-1 | 180 | RS
WR: No. 14 Myles Alston | 6-1 | 180 | FR*
TE: No. 86 Gavin Barthelemy
LT: No. 78 Branson Taylor | 6-5 | 320 | SO*
LG: No. 55 Mark Minor | 6-4 | 325 | RS+
CO: No. 53 Jake Kradel | 6-3 | 305 | SR* OR #60 Owen Drexel | 6-3 | 305 | RS+
RG: NO. 68 Blake Zubovic | 6-4 | 320 |
RT: No. 70 Matt Goncalves | 6-6 | 315 | JR*
UCLA LIKELY STARTING DEFENSE
Line of defense players
No. 99 Jacob Sykes | 6-3 | 277 | SR*
No. 93 Jay Toia | 6-3 | 325 | SO
OLB: No. 11 Gabriel Murphy | 6-3 | 262 | SO*
OLB: No. 33 Bo Calvert | 6-3 | 235 | SR*
LB: No. 21 Jon Jon Vaughns | 6-1 | 215 | J.R.
LB: No. 53 Darius Muasau | 6-1 | 230 | JR*
LB: No. 20 Kain Medrano | 6-3 | 230 | JR*
Number 6 John Humphrey | 6-2 | 192 | J.R.
#3 Devin Kirkwood | 6-3 | 194 | SO
No. 7 Mo Osling III | 6-1 | 194 | SR*
Number 4 Stephan Blaylock | 5-11 | 193 | SR*
LIKELY PITT STARTING DEFENSE
No. 87 Habacuc Baldonado | 6-5 | 260 | SR*
No. 50 Dayon Hayes | 6-3 | 275 | J.R.
No. 95 Devin Danielson| 6-2 | 300 | SR*
No. 2 David Green | 6-1 | 280 | SR*
No. 11 Bangally Kamara | 6-2 | 225 | J.R.
No. 32 Shayne Simon | 6-3 | 235 | SR*
No. 10 Tylar Wiltz | 6-1 | 210 | RS+
No. 20 Javon McIntyre | 6-0 | 195 | FR*
No. 31 Eric Hallet II | 5-11 | 195 | SR*
No. 12 MJ Devonshire | 5-11 | 190 | JR*
No. 14 MARQUIS WILLIAMS | 5-9 | 180 | SR*
LIKELY STARTING OFFENSE AT UCLA
QB: No. 1 Dorian Thompson Robinson | 6-1 | 205 | SR*
RB: No. 24 Zach Charbonnet | 6-1 | 220 | RS
WR: No. 0 Kam Brown | 6-0 | 190 | JR*
WR: No. 9 Jacques Bobo | 6-5 | 215 | SR*
WR: No. 19 Kazmeir Allen | 5-9 | 175 | 200 | JR*
LT: Raiqwon O’Neal | 6-4 | 305 | JR*
LG: No. 56 Atonio Mafi | 6-4 | 339 | SR*
CO: No. 62 Duke Clemens | 6-3 | 302 | SR*
RG: No. 57 Jon Gaines II | 6-4 | 300 | RS
RT: No. 72 Garrett DiGiorgio | 6-6 | 312 | FR*
SPECIAL PITT TEAMS
Placekicker: No. 90 Ben Sauls | 5-10 | 185 | SO*
Punter: Caleb Junko | 6-1 | 200 | FR* or Cam Guess | 5-11 | 200 | SO* or Sam Vander Haar | 6-0 | 205 | FR
Holder: Cam Guess | 5-11 | 200 | SO
Long Snapper: Byron Floyd | 6-1 | 240 | SO*
Kick-off returner: Rodney Hammond JR. | 5-9 | 200 | JR*
Punt returner: MJ Devonshire
Kick-offs: Ben Sauls | 5-10 | 185 | SO*
UCLA SPECIAL TEAMS
Placekicker: No. 2 Nicholas BarrMira | 6-0 | 170 | JR*
Gambler: Nicholas BarrMira
Holder: No. 23 Sean Holland | 6-2 | 215 | SR*
Long Snapper: No. 51 Jack Landherr IV | 6-1 | 238 | RS
Kick-off returner: Kazmeir Allen
Kick returner: No. 17 Logan Loya | 5-11 | 180 | J.R.
Kick off: No. 93 RJ Lopez | 5-11 | 185 | J.R.
QUICK LOOK AT PITTSBURGH
You can throw out all the regular season offensive stats for two big reasons: the absences of quarterback Kedon Slovis and running back Israel Abanikanda. Slovis entered the transfer portal and decided to transfer to BYU. Abanikanda declared for the NFL Draft and opted out of the Sun Bowl. Nick Patti will start at quarterback and Rodney Hammond will start at running back. The wide receiver group stays in touch with Jared Wayne, Bub Means and Konata Mumpfield. Offensive linemen Carter Warren and Gabe Houy both declared for the NFL Draft and opted out of the game. Warren has only played four games this season due to injury.
Hammond has missed several games this season but managed to rush for 366 yards and three touchdowns on 84 carries. C’Bo Flemister, who has rushed for 221 yards and two touchdowns on 40 carries this season, should also get significant touches. Jared Wayne leads the wide receiving group with 55 catches for 1,012 yards and five touchdowns. Pitt will most likely rely on his running game despite the fact that ACC Offensive Player of the Year Israel Abanikanda won’t play the starring role against UCLA on Saturday.
Pitt’s defense will also be different from his last game against Miami. Finished Brandon Hill (safety), Calijah Kancey (defensive end), Deslin Alexandre (defensive end) and SirVocea Dennis (linebacker). All declared for the NFL Draft. The good news is that 3/4 of Pitt’s starting secondary will play: safety Erick Hallet and cornerbacks Marquis Williams and MJ Devonshire. The linebacking unit is still strong with Bangally Kamara, Shayne Simon and Tyle Wiltz playing in this game.
QUICK LOOK AT UCLA
The good news for UCLA is that none of its starters has opted out of the Sun Bowl. Dorian Thompson-Robinson completed 250 of 358 passes for 2,883 yards, 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions during the regular season. Thompson-Robinson also carried the ball 112 times for 631 yards and 11 touchdowns. Running back Zach Charbonnet leads the Bruins’ running game with 1,379 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns on 195 carries (7.0 yards per carry). Jake Robo leads all UCLA wide receivers in catches (54), receiving yards (789) and receiving touchdowns (7). UCLA’s offense is averaging 39.6 points per game, 246.3 rushing yards per game, and 261.5 passing yards per game. Antonio Mafi was one of the best offensive linemen in the Pac-12 conference.
The Bruins are also lucky on the defensive side of football. No one has decided not to play the Sun Bowl. Defensive lineman Laiatu Latu, defensive back Stephan Blaylock and linebacker Darius Muasau are two of the best players to watch on the Bruins defense. UCLA is allowing 28.3 points per game, 124.2 rushing yards per game and 275.7 passing yards per game. The big question is whether Nick Patti and the Pitt offense will be able to exploit this particular weakness in UCLA’s defense.
UCLA is favored by seven points. It would have been a tough game for Pitt even if they weren’t lacking a good number of starters both on offense and defense. I’ll have to go with UCLA on this one.
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