Pittsburgh vs


at El Paso TX
Fri, Dec 30
11:00 AM Pacific
Rotation: 261
Odds: UCLA -5.5, Total: 53

Game Analysis

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1-Star Best Bet – *UCLA (-6)  35   Pittsburgh  21

My math model would have favored UCLA by 3.5 points with no adjustments being made for all of the Pitt players that won’t be playing in this game, which is a significant number with a significant impact. The Panthers will be without their starting quarterback Kedon Slovis, their star RB Israel Abanikanda, a pair of offensive linemen (basically the impact of one lineman since they combine for just 9 starts) and 5 defensive starters, including the ACC Defensive Player of the Year.

Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi has decided to be faithful to veteran Nick Patti over young Nate Yarnell as the starting quarterback, although I expect Yarnell to play when Patti sucks as usual. Patti’s only other start was back in 2019 against Delaware and he 7.3 yards per pass play doesn’t seem bad until you consider that the Blue Hens defense that season allowed 8.6 yppp in 11 FCS games to teams that would combine to average only 4.7 yppp against an average FBS defense. So, Patti’s 7.3 yppp at home against that defense was 1.9 yppp worse than an average FBS quarterback would have produced at home against that defense. Patti hasn’t seemed to have gotten any better, as he has 90 career pass plays at 5.9 yppp against teams that would allow 8.5 yppp to an average quarterback, including just 61 yards on 22 pass plays this season against Tennessee. I am going to assume that Patti can’t possibly be 2.6 yppp worse than an average quarterback, or even the -1.9 yppp that he was in his only other start a few years ago. I’ll be extremely generous and rate the Pitt quarterbacks at 0.7 yppp worse than average, which is about 1.0 yppp worse than the Panthers’ team rating, because I do think we’ll see Yarnell in the game at some point and he looked good in his one game against Western Michigan.

Abanikanda being out is a blow given his 1431 yards at 6.0 ypr and 20 touchdowns. Rodney Hammond will get the start and he’s averaged only 4.4 ypr this season and just 4.7 ypr on 186 career runs. C’Bo Flemister will back him up and he’s averaged 4.6 ypr in his career, although he’s been better this season. I’ll use 4.8 ypr in place of Abanikanda’s 6.0 ypr and that would result in a 0.8 yprp drop when adding in -0.1 yprp for the starting tackle that won’t play. Pitt’s offense was 0.4 yards per play better than average for the season but I rate that unit at 0.4 yppl worse than average heading into this game and it could be much worse if Patti plays like he’s played over his first 90 collegiate pass plays. I project just 339 yards at 5.1 yppl against a UCLA defense that’s been 0.1 yppl better than average this season.

UCLA’s offense is why the Bruins are a good team, as that unit average over 500 yards at 7.1 yppl this season against teams that would combine to allow 5.9 yppl to an average attack. Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson has been practicing and apparently plans to play, which is also the case for star back Zach Charbonnet as of Wednesday night. Top receiver Jake Bobo has stated that he’s going to play as well so it looks like the offense is intact aside from receiver Kazmeir Allen. Allen has opted to pursue a pro career, which is ridiculous given that Allen averaged only 6.4 yards on his 63 targets this season with a 48.3% success rate. The rest of the Bruins wide receivers combined to average 9.6 yards per target with a 63.3% success rate. Logan Loya, who will take Allen’s spot in the starting lineup, has averaged 10.3 YPT on 25 targets and UCLA’s pass offense will likely get better without Allen, who apparently thinks he’s better than he is.

Pitt’s defense was 0.6 yppl better than average this season but that unit will be without ACC Defensive Player of the Year Calijah Kancey (14.5 TFL, including 7.5 sacks), All ACC 1st-Team LB SirVocea Dennis (top tackler and 12 TFL, including 7 sacks), DE Deslin Alexandre (5.5 sacks), and S Brandon Hill (#2 tackler). Those 4 account for 31% of the team’s tackles, 44% of the team’s sacks, 36% of the team’s other tackles for loss, and 11% of the team’s passes defended. DE John Morgan (5.5 TFL) is also out, but he was mainly a backup and I made no adjustment for him.

My algorithm projects an increase of 0.55 yards per play and 4.1 points for those 4 key defensive players, which makes the Panthers barely better than average defensively heading into this game. UCLA averaged 39.1 points per game against a schedule of teams that was barely worse than average so the 478 yards at 7.0 yppl and 35 points that my model projects for the Bruins in this game may be low.

UCLA will be without their kicker/punter Minus kicker/punter Nicholas Barr-Mira, who has entered the transfer portal. He was slightly negative as a place-kicker and a mediocre punter. UCLA only punted 24 times this season, but I’ll assume that the backup punter and kicker are worse and I docked the Bruins a point for his absence.

I could have got a better number last week but I had to be sure that UCLA’s stars were going to play before heading off to pursue their NFL dreams. That appears to be the case and the line has gone up some. However, there is still plenty of value in favor of the Bruins in this game and I’ll take UCLA in a 1-Star Best Bet at -7 points or less.

  • Team Stats
  • Game Log
  • Pittsburgh
  • UCLA


  • Run Plays 36.4 25.3
  • Run Yards 197.5 122.1
  • YPRP 5.4 4.8


  • Pass Comp 16.8 19.0
  • Pass Att 28.9 34.7
  • Comp % 58.2% 54.8%
  • Pass Yards 221.3 223.2
  • Sacks 1.5 3.7
  • Sack Yards 11.9 25.5
  • Sack % 4.9% 9.6%
  • Pass Plays 30.4 38.3
  • Net Pass Yards 209.3 197.7
  • YPPP 6.9 5.2


  • Total Plays 66.8 63.6
  • Total Yards 406.8 319.8
  • YPPL 6.1 5.0


  • Int 0.8 0.8
  • Int % 2.9% 2.4%
  • Fumbles 0.8 0.6
  • Turnovers 1.6 1.4
  • Points 30.8 23.4
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