This weekend Clemson will make their first-ever trip to Heinz Field.
For the second consecutive year, the Tigers (4-2, 3-1) will square off with ACC Coastal member Pitt (5-1, 2-0) in the regular season and will do so as an underdog, as the No. 21 Panthers are favored by 3.5 points in the contest. It is the first time since 2014 that Clemson will go into a regular-season ACC matchup as underdogs.
However, don't tell Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi that his team is favored.
"I don't care about favorites and points and spread and all the rest of it," Narduzzi told the media earlier this week. "Doesn't really matter in my opinion. They are favored coming into our house again. We haven't had success the last two outings. You know, I mean, I don't know who makes those decisions. I don't know what they look at. I don't know anything. I just know they are a really good football team and we are going to have to play our best to have a chance to win."
When Narduzzi cuts on the film, he still sees a Clemson team full of talent on both sides of the ball, despite the Tigers having season-long struggles on the offense.
"Obviously a great football team," Narduzzi said. "I know they are not top in the country right now, but that doesn't determine what kind of football team they have got. They are talented. You're looking at I think the top-scoring defense in the country. They are playing fantastic."
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Narduzzi says many of those offensive struggles are due to the Tigers transitioning to a new quarterback in D.J. Uiagalelei, but at the same time, the head coach said the Tigers still have playmakers all over the field.
"They obviously missing Trevor Lawrence, I think a lot, but they still got a ton of players on the field," Narduzzi said. "Got a lot of guys that make plays that scare the heck out of you. And alls it takes is one play in this series and one play in that series, and that's all they need is explosives. They have had explosives against us before and we have to eliminate those and play great defense."
What really concerns Narduzzi, though, is the Clemson defense. Brent Venables unit is playing as well as any in the country and, according to Narduzzi, he fully expects the talented Tigers' defense to be well-prepared for the Panthers' prolific offense, led by fifth-year senior Kenny Pickett at quarterback.
"It starts with talent," Narduzzi said. "Schemes are schemes. But talent wins football games. Talent, you've got to have talent. It never comes down to the X and Os. It comes down to the guys out there making plays. And again, Brett Venables is a heck of a defensive coordinator. So he gives them that. He's an emotional guy. They play with emotion. They play with effort. They get after it, and again, they are just well-prepared. They are smart."
While the Panthers are averaging an ACC best 48.3 points per game, the Clemson defense is allowing just 12.5 points per game, also an ACC best. And Narduzzi knows his team is in for its biggest test of the season.
"It will be the best challenge our offense has had all year going up against that defense. They are really good."
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