The ACC Championship- and more importantly a College Football Playoff berth- is on the line for Clemson as they take on Pitt, playing spoiler and try to get into a New Year’s Six bowl. This game is hosted by Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina, which is a neutral site. This is a really large spread for a championship game, but that seems about right when you look at how both of these teams have performed all year long.
Pitt is a very strange team when looking at their results. They lost to Penn State by more than 40 to start the year and then lost to UCF by 30. This is not quite a roaring endorsement for Pitt if I am trying to make a case that they can compete in this game. The next week, Pitt turned around and beat Syracuse and then played Notre Dame to a 19-14 loss. HMMM. Then they beat Duke, Virginia Tech, Virginia, and Wake Forest to get into this game. I really think that all of these results show how bad the ACC is as a whole.
The nonconference schedule shows that not only did Pitt lose to good opponents, they got KILLED. Yes, I know the Notre Dame game was close, but maybe their use of the ACC to schedule heavily is kind of tainting our views of them as well. So, what’s the path to win, or at least compete vs. Clemson? Pitt has held their last 4 opponents to under 25 points. Can they do this do Clemson? I don’t think so. Can they frustrate a freshman QB that doesn’t have a TON of talent around him. Now, that is relative, and I’ll talk about that later, but it is nice to see Pitt’s defense is playing well.
Last week, Miami beat Pitt 24-3 while their QB was 6-24 for 52 yards. That is TERRIBLE, but is that because they didn’t care about that game? Hopefully? If not, I would take Clemson by 40 here, but I think that Pitt is kind of playing possum and is preparing for one of their biggest games in recent history in a game that they can shock the world.
Clemson has had a rather comfortable ride to an undefeated season besides the Kelly Bryant transfer and Trevor Lawerence injury vs. Syracuse and the Texas A&M game early in the year. Now, I think that Syracuse is bad and it scares me that that game was still close. The other scary thing is that last game vs. South Carolina, but I don’t think that is as big of a problem in THIS game.
The Clemson defense relies on their defensive line to get pressure. When they cannot get the pressure that they want, their secondary is really bad, as South Carolina exploited. South Carolina’s passing attack isn’t the same as top teams, and I am really afraid that if schemed properly, Clemson can look like Michigan did vs. Ohio State when everyone gets blocked. For the sake of my eyes, I wish I could say that Pitt could exploit that weakness, but I’m not sure they can. Pitt wants to run you into the ground. For example, in their highest scoring game of the year, Pitt’s QB was 8/18 for 150 yards and 2 TDs in a game they scored 54. That won’t cut it vs. this Clemson team.
Clemson’s offense isn’t as explosive as people are used to seeing. Etienne and Tee Higgins are both very talented skill players, but after that, I don’t see it. Now, they are probably still better than what Pitt has to offer, but they are not as deep as some people would probably think.
Clemson vs. Pittsburgh Prediction
When it comes to picking this game, I have a hard time really pegging down a game script. This leads me to take the points (+27.5) and Pitt here. We haven’t seen Clemson just stomp teams out of the gate. I think Pitt can slow down Clemson enough to keep the game semi-competitive most of the game. Heck, maybe they have been planning for this game and Pitt can pull out all of the stops to really stay in this game by playing with the “huge underdog” mentality.