Pittsburgh Vs. UCLA Predictions, Picks, Odds For Sun Bowl (12/30/22)

After narrowly making it to the Pac 12 Championship, UCLA will look to end on a high note after self-imploding against Arizona which saw their postseason conference championship hopes vanish. As of now Dorian Thompson-Robinson and Zach Charbonnet are still planning on playing and will bring a much-needed boost against the Pitt defense. Can UCLA find success against this elite Pitt defense? Get my Pittsburgh Vs. UCLA prediction. 

Pittsburgh Vs. UCLA Odds

Oddsmakers tend to think so as they opened the Bruins as a -3.5 favorite. Bettors are in agreement, taking them up to as high as -5 in some shops as of writing. This is heavily correlated with the current status of UCLA’s elite playmakers, both currently suiting up until noted otherwise. Pitt on the other hand has been dealing with major opt outs and transfers. Most notably running back Israel Abanikanda, who has opted out for the NFL draft, and quarterback Kedon Slovis who is transferring to BYU.

As for the total, this was expected to be a high scoring affair as oddsmakers opened the number up to as high as 57.5. Bettors are in disagreement, hammering the under down to as low as 53.5. Like the spread, this is heavily correlated with the player news from both teams. UCLA will have a tough task going against this Pitt defense while the Panthers offense is getting decimated by opt outs.

Pittsburgh Vs. UCLA Prediction & Pick

The Pick: UCLA -4.5 (Buy out if DTR does not play)

With Pitt’s offense going through a massive overhaul, I will back the UCLA Bruins at no higher than -4.5. While they still will field an elite defense, it’s their underwhelming offense that gives this UCLA spread an edge. UCLA fits the typical Pac 12 blueprint, fielding an elite offense with a swiss cheese defense but the issue is Pitt may struggle to find success on offense with their backups in this matchup.

This is an offense that based a brunt of their offense around the run game. Finishing the season ranked 32nd in Off Rush Success Rate and 27th in Rush Play Rate, they are now without their main contributor for that success with star running back Israel Abanikanda deciding to opt out for the NFL Draft. Israel commanded all the offensive attention, finishing his year with 1,431 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns.

Without him, Pitt may opt into the idea of going by a committee approach which brings question marks to the backfield as no backup rushed for over 400 yards. While this would normally limit the missing production, the backups will need to find success behind an offensive line that will be without their starting offensive tackles. Not a good indication of how well they will be able to create holes for their backup running backs.

With the offense already missing their leader in production, losing quarterback Kedon Slovis is the straw that broke the camel’s back. He struggled mightily in his lone year at Pitt, nearly matching his interceptions to touchdowns. Still, losing a starter worthy quarterback is decimating, even if their pass ranks only equated to 67h in Off Pass Success Ranks.

As for UCLA’s offense, it will be business as usual with their star players’ status still reflecting as if they are playing. Especially Dorian Thompson-Robinson as he has taken another leap in production and carried the Bruins to elite status. His dual threat approach is exactly what the Bruins will need against one of the best defenses in the nation.

Pittsburgh Vs. UCLA Key Matchups

Even against backups, can UCLA’s defense hold up against the Pitt offense?

UCLA defense vs Pitt backups

While the status of DTR is the main focal point for this wager, the UCLA defense will be the key contributor to cashing this ticket. Even as one of the worst defenses on both ends, they should still fare far better against the Pitt backups.

UCLA’s defense finished the season ranked well below average in both Def Pass Success and Def Rush Success Rates. Their second level has been the lone bright spot, limiting offensive explosiveness.

Their defensive line may finally give them the help they have desperately needed as they get the opportunity to generate pressure to Pitt’s backfield while going against two backup offensive tackles.

Verdict

Until noted otherwise, I expect the UCLA star duo of DTR and Charbonnet to roll over the decimated Pitt unit. Take the Bruins at no higher than -4.5 while monitoring the status of both key players. Should they decide to opt out, then this is a pass for me.

Kody is a sports betting writer here at Lineups. He specializes in college sports as well as the NFL and NBA. He won’t quit believing in the Lions Super Bowl chances even when they are eliminated.

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