WHO: Stanford (8-4) vs. Pitt (7-6)
WHAT: The 85th Sun Bowl
WHEN: 2 p.m. ET on CBS
WHERE: Sun Bowl Stadium, El Paso, Texas
THE SKINNY: Both the Panthers and the Cardinal have made some pretty interesting memories over the years while competing in the Sun Bowl so it’s appropriate that the two programs who love to run the ball and play defense will met for the first time in recent history way out in West Texas.
For the Cardinal, their season has been full of up’s (like coming back to beat Oregon) and downs, like their struggles to keep star tailback Bryce Love going (he’ll miss this one to get healthy for the NFL Draft). Some time off and a few extra practices offer the opportunity to end the year on a high note though — as well as the chance to get a ninth win for the eighth time in the last nine seasons.
With Love in and out of the lineup and the ground game generally struggling overall, Stanford’s offense has been carried by the arm of QB K.J. Costello. He’s made big strides in his second year as a starter and threw for over 3,400 yards and 29 touchdowns in 2018. He’s got a diverse group of pass catchers to find down the field, whether it’s jump ball machine J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, the reliable slot guy in Trenton Irwin or the latest in a long line of future draft picks at the tight end position in Kaden Smith. While the play-calling can be conservative at times, Stanford can really sneak up and surprise you with their version of an Air Raid attack and put up points in a hurry.
The Cardinal’s defense will also play a big role in the Sun Bowl too. The team is a perfect 8-0 on the year when forcing at least one turnover and 0-4 when they fail to record a takeaway.
Hoping to protect the ball and make a few plays of their own is a Pitt team who took some lumps along the way but still managed to emerge atop the ACC Coastal. Their offense leans heavily on their senior tandem in the backfield as both Qadree Ollison (1,190) and Darrin Hall (1,021) topped the 1,000 yard mark on the ground. Sophomore quarterback Kenny Pickett has shown flashes with 14 starts under his belt and has thrown just one interception in his past seven games.
It should all make for a fairly compelling bowl game between the two teams and put a premium on taking care of the football and making the most of big plays down the field. The Pac-12 needs postseason wins in the worst way and the Cardinal’s only losses are to teams in the top 20 so something says they do just enough to leave El Paso with a comfortable win.
THE PICK: Stanford 31, Pitt 17
As the old adage goes, the best-laid plans of mice and men’s Twitter accounts often go awry.
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day Monday, Florida State’s official recruiting account on Twitter posted an inspirational quote from the slain Civil Rights leader. It would’ve been fine for all involved if the account would’ve stopped there; unfortunately for all involved, they didn’t stop there.
Instead, a photoshopped image of Dr. King wearing a football glove and apparently performing the Tomahawk Chop was included as part of the tweet.
Not surprisingly, the Twitter account caught significant heat and flack for the image on social media. Just as unsurprisingly, the tweet was deleted less than an hour after it was posted and an apology subsequently issued.
Rutgers has hired Andy Buh as its defensive coordinator, the program has announced.
“We are excited to add Andy to the Rutgers football family,” head coach Chris Ash said in a statement. “He is an outstanding linebackers coach and has extensive experience in the Big Ten. Andy and I share a defensive philosophy and he is very familiar with the scheme we run, which will benefit the continued development of our defense.”
Ash and Buh worked together previously at Wisconsin, where Ash was the defensive coordinator and Buh the linebackers coach. He spent the past three seasons as the defensive coordinator at Maryland and has previous coordinator experience at Stanford, Nevada and Cal.
Buh replaces Jay Niemann, who served as the Scarlet Knights’ defensive coordinator for the first three seasons of the Ash era. Rutgers was 69th in total and yards per play defense and 89th in scoring in 2018, surrendering 31.4 points per game. Buh’s Maryland defense placed 78th, allowing 28.7 points per outing.
Rutgers is 7-29 under Ash and 3-24 in Big Ten play.
North Texas celebrated MLK Day by announcing a slew of future football opponents.
The Mean Green announced Monday it will play home-and-homes with Baylor and Tulane in the 2028 and ’29 campaigns. North Texas will visit the Bears and Green Wave in 2028, then host both in 2029. UNT will visit Baylor on Sept. 2 and Tulane on Sept. 23 in 2028, while the Mean Green will host Baylor and Tulane in back-to-back weeks to open 2029, with the Bears coming on Sept. 1 and the Green Wave on Sept. 8.
A previously scheduled home game with Army was bumped from 2027 to 2028 in conjunction with Monday’s announcements. North Texas also announced a home game with Texas Southern for Sept. 24, 2022.
Baylor will be the fourth Power 5 program and the second Big 12 opponent to visit Apogee Stadium, which opened in 2011. Indiana visited in Apogee’s opening season, Cal will make a visit in 2022 and Texas Tech will come to Denton in 2027.
“I am thrilled to announce two quality home-and-home series have been added to our schedules,” Mean Green AD Wren Baker said in a statement. “Baylor joins Cal and Texas Tech as Power 5 conference teams coming to Denton over the next few years. Tulane is a quality American Athletic Conference team that will be a fun trip for our fans when we return to New Orleans. I appreciate (COO) Jared Mosley‘s diligent efforts to find compelling games for our fans.”
North Texas and Baylor have met 13 times previously. The Bears have won 12 of those meetings but North Texas took the most recent meeting in Denton, a 52-14 thumping in 2003. That remains UNT’s most recent win over a Big 12 opponent.
The Mean Green and Green Wave have played just once previously, a 21-14 Tulane victory in New Orleans in 2013.
Baylor has a previously scheduled trip to Oregon slated for 2028, a return trip for the Ducks’ flight to Waco in 2027. Tulane also has a home-and-home with Iowa State in 2028-29, with the home dates flipped from the UNT series.
Boise State became a household name through playing on its trendsetting blue turf (and winning a lot), such that the school now owns a trademark for any non-green collegiate field.
The current blue playing surface is set to go away this spring, only to be replaced by a newer, bigger, bluer (probably) version.
“It’s needed,” Boise State AD Curt Apsey told the Idaho Statesman. “We’re not just doing it to do it. It’s near the end of the usual lifespan.”
The current playing surface was installed ahead of the 2010 season; FieldTurf surfaces usually have a lifespan of eight to 10 years.
“The field is shredding,” Broncos head coach Bryan Harsin told the paper last summer. “It’s just old. It needs to be replaced. It’s just time.”
Boise State has played on a blue surface since 1986, when then-AD Gene Blaymaier put in blue AstroTurf at a cost of $750,000. The school did not even join FBS until a decade later.
The new surface will extend beyond the playing field to cover the area that previously held the Broncos’ track. It is expected to cost between $600,000 and $1 million, but the school is approved to spend $600,000 as of now.