This doesn’t feel like a championship, but that’s how any matchup would feel in the ACC because no one is close to the same level as Clemson. At this point, the only way Clemson loses to Pittsburgh is if it looks ahead to the College Football Playoff even though that’s a full month away. The Tigers were -26.5 point favorites with an over/under of 54 as of Tuesday for the Game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
The last time these teams met was a Game that eventually didn’t matter, but Pitt won 43-42 as a 21-point underdog. Clemson then went on to win the National Championship. It’s going to be extremely difficult for the Panthers to pull off another upset, but that was expected in the first meeting when Nathan Peterman and James Conner cut through the Clemson defense aided by three Deshaun Watson interceptions.
However, a lack of turnovers is why Clemson still hasn’t lost a Game this year, winning all but the Syracuse one by at least 20 points in ACC play. An efficient offense combined with the best defensive line in the country has been too much for opponents to overcome. As for Pittsburgh, it’s been a weird season since losing to Penn State by 45 points and at UNC earlier in the season. The Panthers still managed to beat up on the weaker Coastal division before falling to Miami 24-3 in the finale. This team may not be good, but it’s at least been more consistent than the rest.
Winning will depend on what the offense can do and according to the numbers, Pitt doesn’t have the type of team to upset Clemson. For starters, the Panthers aren’t winning because of quarterback Kenny Pickett, who has just 12 touchdowns and five interceptions to go with 6.89 yards per attempt. The offense goes through the rushing attack between Qadree Ollison (1,134 yards, 10 TDs) and Darrin Hall (935 yards, 9 TDs), which has led to 5.8 yards per carry as a team. The clear issue is that Clemson may have the best run defense in the country, allowing only 85 yards per Game to go with 2.2 yards per carry. If that ground Game doesn’t work, it’s hard to see Pickett doing enough to put more than 10 points on the board considering Clemson has already held five ACC teams to 10 points or less.
The other side could be just as difficult because Clemson doesn’t turn it over with Trevor LAwrence at quarterback, who has a solid 22 touchdowns and only Four interceptions. Even then, it’s running back Travis Etienne that leads the offense with 1,307 yards and 19 touchdowns on 8.0 yards per carry. There are other pieces like receivers Tee Higgins, Amari Rodgers and Hunter Renfrow, but Etienne has been electric throughout the season and can break off a big run at any moment.
None of that is good news for the Pittsburgh defense, which has been subpar in every facet and allows 4.6 yards per carry. The Panthers have played some good Games in the second half of the season, but that’s partly due to Schedule as they still gave up 45 points to Duke. Coming within 26 points is possible, but only if the Pitt defense keeps Clemson in check and that’s a hard thing to bet on.
The Tigers are 5-1 ATS in their last six Conference Games and 10-2 ATS in their last 12 at a neutral site. The Panthers are 6-1 ATS in their last seven overall, but 1-5 ATS in their last six at a neutral site.
Our Pick – Worth noting here is the fact that Pitt did not need last weeks Game. Clem,son on th eother hand, with the playoffs looming, could not afford to stumble.
Pitt is a team that came on strong down the stretch up until that Miami Game. They beat a good Syracuse team and battled Notre Dame, losing by just 5, 19-14. To rule them out here would be a mistake. They’ll come to play.
Unfortunately, Our model predicts a Clemson blowout by 30 points when using data from the entire season and the last 7 Games only.
The closest we can get Pitt using Our model, is a 13 point loss, when using data only from the last 4 Games.
With that in mind, we are going to offer two plays here, one being stronger than the other. First, we’ll take Pitt in the 1ST HALF at +17.5. Expecting Pitt to come to play, a fairly close Game thru halftime is likely.
We’ll also make a slightly smaller play on Pitt for the Game, getting a full 4 TDs. Pitt +17.5 1st half and Pitt +28 Game.