Things are setting up quite nicely for one of those dominating runs we have seen Clemson go on to close out some seasons in recent years.
First, this team has now had three full weeks to stew on the Notre Dame loss. That alone is plenty of motivation. Second, we have Dabo Swinney once again getting heat in the national media for his blunt comments about the Florida State game. You just know that he will turn that into disrespect and there is no one better at playing that card.
Third, this team is as healthy as it’s been since the beginning of the season, particularly on defense where injuries had taken their toll. Oh, and last but certainly not least, Trevor Lawrence is back.
It’s Senior Day in The Valley. Guys like Lawrence, Travis Etienne, and Amari Rodgers, among others, will be making their final trot down that hill and playing their final game in Memorial Stadium. They will want to go out at home with a bang.
Add in that Pitt just so happens to be the last team to beat Clemson at home and that there are still a few guys on the team that were around for that loss, and it starts to sound like the Panthers could be in for a long afternoon.
Although, this isn’t a bad Pitt team. In fact, they are a fairly solid squad, that when playing their best ball can be competitive with most teams. However, Clemson isn’t most teams.
This Panthers pass rush is legit though. In fact, it’s probably the best in the country. They lead the nation in total sacks and tackles for loss, and they live in the opponents backfield.
Fortunately, while the Clemson offensive line has struggled with run blocking at times, they have excelled at pass blocking. Not to mention there is very little that Lawrence hasn’t seen. The Pitt defense will almost certainly make some plays but there is nothing they can do that will consistently fool the Tigers veteran quarterback.
It is also hard to run against this Pitt defense so look for Clemson to get the ball into the hands of their playmakers out on the perimeter. If the Tigers can win the one on one matchups outside on a regular basis, that slows that pass rush down.
As for the Panthers offense, it all starts and stops with quarterback Kenny Pickett. This is not the same inept quarterback fans will remember from the 2018 ACC Championship Game. This kid has developed into a pretty good player over the past two years.
Pitt can’t run the ball though. They don’t even make a ton of effort to do so. They like to dink and dunk the ball down the field, hoping to lure opposing defensive backs to sleep so they can hit the big play. With a healthy secondary, the backend of the Tigers defense will not be as prone to giving up the big play.
Again, this will be a highly motivated Clemson team. Facing off against a team that has far less talent at almost every position on the field. It’s not only Senior Day, but Military Appreciation Day. Clemson is heavily favored and rightfully so. The Tigers roll.
Clemson 45 Pitt 13
Freddie Huth (Staff Writer): As all of us travel down this new path of not knowing who will be available, not only due to normal wear and tear from the battle on the field but also due to Covid-19 and protocols from the pandemic, it becomes harder and harder to figure out what will be seen from week to week. The Tigers are no exception, and have now not been able to play in over three weeks after having a bye week and last week’s cancellation at FSU. Meanwhile, Pitt has gone 2-1 during that span and is coming off of an impressive 47-14 victory over Virginia Tech.
The Panthers pass rush leads the country in sacks and tackles for loss. The Clemson offensive line has been really good in pass protection but in their last game they weren’t able to get anything going on the ground against Notre Dame. Look for them to be under pressure all game long. Especially if they can’t get the rushing game going again. The return of Kenny Pickett has also done wonders for the Panthers offense and everything runs through him. I still expect Trevor Lawrence, who hasn’t played In over four weeks, to put up numbers like he was before going out. All Pitt can really only hope for is that Clemson comes out rusty. Don’t expect that to stop the Tigers though. Clemson 42 Pitt 21
Nathan Shipman (Contributor): This is the senior class’s chance (minus the fifth year seniors) to leave Death Valley completely undefeated at home. They lost to Notre Dame earlier, and were turned away at the last minute by Florida State last week. They also all remember how sad the 2016 seniors were when they couldn’t accomplish the undefeated at home feat at the hands of another Pitt team! THEY ARE FUMING MAD RIGHT NOW! Expect Trevor to stay in a little longer so he can release some tension from the last few weeks and get his Heisman stats back up. Expect the entire senior class to give the performance of their lives. And on a lighter note, expect to have your heart’s warmed, as it is Millitary Appreciation Day, and Coach Swinney’s oldest son Will is charging down the hill one last time, and Daddy Dabo will be waiting there at the bottom. Clemson 42-7
And we also have some predictions from some of our readers….
Jerry Kyle 56-13
Chad Keith 38-14
Scott Miller 57-17
Tommy Gunter 56-10
Debra McCall 52-17
Alan Stalnaker 38-13
Ron Moore 38-17
William Eric Wilhelm 44-28
Robert Rambow 38-13
Joey Rogers 42-10