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Clemson at Pitt: 5 Things to Watch For

Five storylines to follow as the Clemson Tigers make their first ever visit to Heinz Field for a matchup with the No. 21 Pitt Panthers.

Clemson will find itself in very unfamiliar territory this weekend. 

For the first time ever, the Tigers (4-2, 3-1) will play a game at Heinz Feild, as Clemson gets set to take on No. 21 Pitt (5-1, 2-0). The Panthers, led by fifth-year senior Kenny Pickett at quarterback, features the highest-scoring offense in the ACC, while Clemson will bring with it, the league's best defense when it comes to points allowed.

The Tigers are still very much alive for a seventh consecutive ACC Championship, but with both NC State and Wake Forest ahead of them in the Atlantic standings, there is no more room for error.

5 Things to Watch For

1. ACC's Best Offense vs Best Defense: Pitt comes in averaging 48.3 points per game. The Clemson defense is allowing just 12.5 points per contest. Something will have to give here, as the two teams meet for the third time in four seasons. Last November in Death Valley, the Tigers forced five Pitt turnovers and held the Panthers to just 246 yards of offense. In the 2018 ACC Championship Game, Clemson held Pitt to less than 200 yards of total offense and Pickett to a measly eight passing yards. The Tigers will need a similar performance from Brent Venables unit on Saturday.



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2. Can Tigers Establish Run: For all of the talk about the high-powered Pitt offense, the Panthers have been fairly stingy when it comes to allowing teams to run the ball. The Panthers are allowing just 100.2 rushing yards per game, which is good for second-best in the ACC, and is less than what the Tigers are allowing (113.0). Clemson has found a little something in the running game with Kobe Pace and freshman Phil Mafah over the past two games, and if they are to have any chance on Saturday, they will have to have success running the ball in an effort to take some of the pressure off of a struggling passing game. 

3. Tigers Should Embrace Underdog Role: Not one player on this team has ever gone into a regular-season matchup against an ACC opponent as an underdog. In previous years, Dabo Swinney and the rest of the coaching staff have excelled in playing the role of the underdog. They have not had many opportunities to do so in recent years. It will be interesting to see how is this team embraces that role and how they respond in fact they do so.

4. Clemson Front Four Must Get Pressure: The Tigers must get pressure on Pickett with the front four. Doing so will allow Venables to get very creative with coverages in an attempt to slow down the potent Pitt offense. Xavier Thomas and Myles Murphy will need to be disruptive as ever, and Ruke Orhorhoro and Tre Williams must keep up their high level of play in place of injured starters Tyler Davis and Bryan Bresee.

5. D.J. Uiagalelei Must Be Better: Yes, the sophomore quarterback has been better in the wins over Syracuse and Boston College, but he still hasn't even remotely resembled the quarterback seen last season when he made two starts during his freshman season. The Tigers are averaging just 20.5 points per game, and in all likelihood will need more than that to pull off the road win at Pitt. While the offense has certainly had more issues than the play of Uiagalelei, if he were to up his game, that would be a good start towards the receivers and the offensive line upping theirs, and this offense just flat out needs more production across the board.

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