One of the biggest games of the season is on deck this weekend as Clemson travels to Pitt.
The Tigers are once again in a must win situation and will make their first ever trip to Heinz Field as an underdog, marking the first time since 2014 the Tigers will go into a regular season contest against an ACC team not favored, and for good reason.
The Clemson offense has been nothing short of a catastrophic disaster, while the defense is championship caliber. That Pitt offense, on the other hand, has been dynamic. Almost unstoppable.
However, when you dig a little deeper, this Pitt team hasn’t played very good competition. Unless you consider teams like Tennessee solid competition. They even lost to Western Michigan in Week 3, a game in which they gave up 44 points at home. To a G5 team.
The Panthers have played much better over their past three games, though. In particular the past two, in which they have blown out Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. Although, against the Hokies, that dynamic offense didn’t look quite so unstoppable.
As much press as quarterback Kenny Pickett gets, and rightfully so, it’s the Panthers running game that has really gotten going in the past two games. Pitt put up a combined 389 rushing yards in their wins over the Yellow Jackets and Hokies.
As for the Clemson offense, well there really isn’t much to say. The news of Joseph Ngata testing positive for COVID and being ruled out is just the latest hit for this team. However, if it means we get to see less of Justyn Ross in the slot, I am all for it.
What has been worth discussing for this Clemson team is Brent Venables defense. This is where the game will be won or lost for the Tigers. Venables has made Pickett look pedestrian in the last two matchups between the teams, and it is safe to assume he will once again come in with a masterful plan and they will need it.
Pitt comes in averaging more than three sacks per game and the Clemson offensive line has struggled mightily in pass protection. The run blocking has been decent for the most part, and if Clemson is to have any chance, Kobe Pace and Phil Mafah will have to get the running game going early to help slow down that pass rush.
This is one I have gone back and forth with all week long. To be quite honest, it would not be surprising to see Clemson win, nor would it be to see them lose. It wouldn’t be all that surprising to see Clemson win by two scores, This team is due for some kind of offensive breakout. The only thing that would surprise me would be Pitt winning in blowout fashion.
So with that said, when in doubt, I’m riding with BV. In 2018, Venables’ defense held Pickett to just eight passing yards. Last year in Death Valley, Venables’ group forced five Pitt turnovers.
Venables knows how to defend Pickett and this offense, and they will once again rise to the occasion. And even without Ngata, the offense will do enough. Not to mention Dabo Swinney has done some of his best work when the Tigers were legitimate underdogs.
Clemson 24 Pitt 20
Sam Clemons: Despite the struggles this season, I still believe this team is capable. If the defense plays with its trademark stingy intensity this could be an interesting game. If ever a Clemson offense was due for a breakout game, this is it. All statistics aside, this game, like all others, is one of X’s and O’s. The Tigers have the “O’s” (the OMG’s) down to a science now they must find their “X’s” (X-citement and X-ecution) and I’ve got to believe they will find it Saturday afternoon in Ketchup Land.
Clemson 28 Pittsburgh 24
Freddie Huth: All of the bad that has seemed to surround this program and yet a win this weekend keeps them in the race for the Atlantic. With their backs still against the wall I expect Clemson to come out scratching and clawing. The offense will do just enough to get the Tigers ahead and the defense will slow down this Pitt offense for the first time all season. Even though it will be another ugly win, a win is a win and that’s one thing this team has definitely been good at this season.
Clemson 24 Pitt 20
Ted Jackson: Clemson has been able to hang on and win games by the skin of their teeth with outstanding defensive play. The magic ends this week as they take on Pitt, who has a good offensive unit led by the best quarterback in the ACC: Kenny Pickett. He has thrown for over 1900 yards and has 19 touchdowns to 1 interception. Entering the season all we heard about was how DJ Uiagalelei and Sam Howell were going to light it up and be Heisman contenders. Well, Pickett has outplayed both and his team boasts a better record because of it. Clemson offensive woes continue and the defense eventually tires, with Pitt claiming the victory on their home turf.
Pitt 24 Clemson 17
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