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Shrouded in uncertainty, UCLA will face Pittsburgh in the Sun Bowl

The date, location and opponent for UCLA’s bowl game are set. The Bruins will play Pittsburgh in the Sun Bowl on Dec. 30 in El Paso, Texas.

But lots of uncertainty remains. Who will play for the Bruins in their first bowl game since 2017? And who will be calling their defense?

UCLA coach Chip Kelly presumably can answer some of these questions when he speaks with reporters later Sunday, but doubts could remain about the status of NFL-eligible players for a few more days.

When he last spoke with reporters, late last month, quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson said he had not decided whether to play in the bowl game or prepare for the NFL draft. The fifth-year senior acknowledged it would be hard to opt out of the Las Vegas Bowl that would be played in his hometown, but that possibility was taken off the (blackjack) table when the Las Vegas Bowl picked Oregon State to face Florida.

Other players who could opt out of the bowl game include running back Zach Charbonnet and wide receiver Jake Bobo.

There is also the matter of UCLA defensive coordinator Bill McGovern, who has returned to practice as a visitor in recent weeks but has missed the last five games with what is believed to be a health issue. Analyst Clancy Pendergast has taken McGovern’s spot in the press box during games while collaborating with a group of veteran assistants to handle the defensive playcalling.

UCLA will make its first appearance in the Sun Bowl since 2013, when it posted a 42-12 victory over Virginia Tech. Pittsburgh (8-4) finished tied with Duke for second place in the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Coastal Division after winning its last four games, including a triumph over 20th-ranked Syracuse.

UCLA’s placement was not unexpected after the Bruins dropped two of their final three games to end the regular season. Fringe College Football Playoff candidates as recently as early November, the Bruins were stunned at home by Arizona before falling to USC in a 48-45 heartbreaker.

A narrow triumph over California the day after Thanksgiving assured UCLA (9-3 overall, 6-3 Pac-12) of its most victories since finishing 10-3 in 2014, when the Bruins were selected for the Alamo Bowl.

With a victory later this month, the Bruins can tie the school record for victories that was set in 1946 and matched in 1982, 1987, 1988, 1997, 1998, 2005, 2013 and 2014. College football teams added one game to their regular-season schedules starting in 2006, playing 12 games instead of 11.

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