Heading into the 2018 season, it seemed like a near given that the Clemson Tigers would be making an appearance in the ACC championship game when all was said and done. The same could not be said about their opponents, the Pittsburgh Panthers, which only adds to the intrigue for this year’s title tilt.
Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte will be the venue for the matchup between the 12-0 Tigers and the 7-5 Panthers, which will be played underneath the primetime lights and broadcast to the nation on ABC. Clemson is shooting for its fourth straight conference crown and looking to validate its #2 seed in the College Football Playoff, while the upstart Panthers will be looking to pull off an upset for the ages.
The spread is pretty hefty for this one, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be treated to an interesting game come kickoff. Let’s break down what both squads bring to the table. We’ll get started by taking a look at what the folks in the desert have to say.
*Betting odds provided by: Sportsbetting.ag
Clemson vs. Pittsburgh, 8 PM EST, ABC
Clemson vs. Pittsburgh pick:
While these two teams didn’t face off in the regular season, they shared a number of common opponents. Most notably, they both faced off with the Syracuse Orange, the #20 team in the nation. Pitt was a 44-37 home victor, while Syracuse provided Clemson with one of its stiffest tests of the regular season, falling on the road by a score of 27-23.
Outside of that tilt and a two-point win over the Texas A&M Aggies, Clemson has been rolling over opponents in 2018. Pitt has had a tougher go of things, and they suffered a road loss last time out versus the Miami Hurricanes by a score of 24-3.
|Record||Conf. Rec.||PF||PA||Streak||Standings||CFP Rank|
Clemson’s perfect mark includes blowout wins over conference foes such as NC State and Florida State. The team really hasn’t been tested since the tough game versus Syracuse, but South Carolina was able to drop 35 points on them last week. That proved to be no match for the 55 that Clemson posted.
The loss to Miami brought a halt to Pitt’s four-game winning streak. It was the proverbial letdown game versus the Hurricanes, as the Panthers were riding high after taking down the ACC Coastal division title. Overall, it has been a solid turnaround for team that started off the season with low expectations and a mark of 3-4 at the halfway point.
Statistically, Clemson clearly has the upper hand. The Tigers are productive and efficient on offense, while the defense is stout in both facets, especially versus the run. Clemson boasts one of the top defensive fronts in the nation, and the unit does a stellar job of applying pressure on opposing signal callers.
For Pitt, the team’s clear strength on offense comes via the running game. Seniors Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall form a solid one-two punch out of the backfield, with lines of 176/1,134/10 and 123/935/9 respectively. The defense is of the middle of the road variety, but the unit has produced some solid outings, including holding the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in check in a 19-14 defeat.
These two teams have met just twice in total, with Pittsburgh winning both of them. The first one took place way back in 1977, a convincing 34-3 win for the Panthers. More recently, they met on Clemson’s home turf in 2016. The Tigers were huge 21.5-point favorites in a game with a projected total of 62.5 points.
Pitt was able to pull out a stunner by a score of 43-42. For this meeting, Clemson is a big 27.5-point favorite with an Over/Under of 52.5 points. The stakes are crystal clear: a big win for Clemson cements their #2 seed in the CFP playoffs and gives the team its fourth consecutive ACC title. For Pitt, they’ll be shooting for what would be a monumental upset if they were able to pull it off.
Clemson is clearly the better team on paper, and they should be able to secure another conference crown and lock down a spot in the College Football Playoffs as a result. As for whether or not Pitt can keep it interesting and at least cover the hefty spread, we can look at the Panthers season to date for clues.
Pitt has been blown out twice – 51-6 by Penn State and 4-14 to UCF – and they also suffered a lopsided 24-3 loss to Miami last week. Their other two losses were tight: three points to UNC and five points to Notre Dame. The divisional crown was certainly unexpected, but it looks like they got their letdown out of the way last week in a game that didn’t affect their standing in the title game.
We’re expecting a much more focused squad and a better effort this time around. Clemson wins outright, but Pitt comes to play and offers up some moments of intrigue.
We’ll take Pitt plus the points.