EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – After two years of turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl was due for some good news. They got it on Sunday.

The Sun Bowl committee announced that 18th-ranked UCLA (9-3) and Pittsburgh (8-4) were the participants for the 89th Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl later this month.

Kickoff is slated for noon on Dec. 30 at Sun Bowl Stadium and it will air, as it does every year, on CBS. According to FanDuel Sportsbook, UCLA has opened as a 3.5-point favorite over Pitt.

“The best thing that could happen to bounce back from those last two years is to sell out the place and I’m going to really push hard for that,” said Sun Bowl Executive Director Bernie Olivas. “This is a great matchup, not only for the Sun Bowl but for El Paso.

Sun Bowl executives said that UCLA was its top choice from the Pac-12 and when it became clear that an eight-win Pitt team would be available too, it made the decision even easier for the committee.

“I watched UCLA play a lot this year and they’ll come in ranked number 18. We hit a home run getting UCLA to come here,” said committee member Robert Dunlop.

Added football chairman John Folmer, “Pitt loves being here. They’re a great institution with great TV numbers and fans that travel well.”

UCLA and Pitt have played 14 times historically but have not squared off since 1972. The Bruins have won nine of the 14 meetings between the two sides.

The Bruins are led by quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson and running back Zach Charbonnet. As for Pitt, the Panthers’ running back Israel Abanikanda ranks in the top 10 nationally in rushing yards. Panthers quarterback Kedon Slovis is a transfer from USC.

It remains unclear if any of those players will choose to opt out of the game, but ACC Defensive Player of the Year Calijah Kancey has already announced that he won’t play for Pitt when they come to El Paso due to an injury.

Bruins head coach Chip Kelly said on Sunday that Thompson-Robinson and Charbonnet both practiced this weekend as UCLA had, “full participation,” at its first pre-bowl practices. With final exams this week, UCLA will take some time off, then reconvene next weekend. It still seems possible that Thompson-Robinson, Charbonnet and others could opt out, but Kelly said there’s been no indication of that yet.

As for Pitt, head coach Pat Narduzzi said he didn’t know if Abanikanda or anyone else might be considering an opt out on the Panthers’ side. However, they were also planning a few off days around finals week and Narduzzi figured to have more answers regarding any potential Pitt opt outs later this month.

UCLA last played in the Sun Bowl in 2013, beating Virginia Tech 42-12. Pitt came to El Paso in 2018, losing to Stanford, 14-13.