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Way-Too-Early Look: Pittsburgh Panthers

Football season is less than 100 days away for the 2021 Clemson Tigers, so it is time to begin our way-too-early look at each of the opponents on the Tigers' schedule.
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Head Coach: Pat Narduzzi's tenure has witnessed many milestone moments and achievements. 

From 2015-20, Narduzzi directed Pitt to 29 victories in ACC play, the conference’s third-highest win total during that span. The Panthers trailed only Clemson (46) and Miami (32). Narduzzi has coached four first-team All-Americans at Pitt, including three who earned consensus status. In 2020, defensive ends Patrick Jones II and Rashad Weaver were consensus All-Americans. Pitt was one of only four programs nationwide to have multiple consensus honorees last season, joining Alabama, Ohio State and Notre Dame. 

Arriving at Pitt without a single FBS scholarship offer, Jimmy Morrissey became a three-time All-ACC center and the 2020 recipient of the Burlsworth Trophy, annually presented to the most outstanding player in college football who began his career as a walk-on. Four Pitt products—Jones, Morrissey, Weaver and safety Damar Hamlin—played in the 2021 Senior Bowl, the most of any program in the ACC.

Panthers on offenseMark Whipple enters his third season as Pitt's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Whipple owns four decades of experience and championship rings at both the NFL and collegiate levels. 

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Under Whipple's guidance, Kenny Pickett has established himself among the most productive quarterbacks in Pitt history, ranking third all-time in total offense (8,552) and fifth in passing yards (7,984). Entering the 2021 season, Pickett is poised to eclipse leader Alex Van Pelt (1989-92) in both categories (11,267 pass yards and 11,148 total yards). 

In 2020, Pickett became the first Pitt quarterback to twice throw for 400 yards in a game. He was named to the Johnny Unitas Award Top 15 despite missing two contests due to injury. In 2019, Pickett threw for a career-high 3,098 yards, fourth all-time at Pitt, and closed the season with an MVP performance in the Quick Lane Bowl, passing for 361 yards and three touchdowns.

Panthers on defenseUnder the direction of Randy Bates, Pitt has fielded one of college football's most aggressive and productive defenses the past two seasons. The Panthers ranked among the nation's top 20 units in both 2020 and 2019 in fewest yards allowed. 

This past season, Pitt led the country in total sacks (tied with 46) and tackles for loss (a school-record 111). The Panthers also boasted lofty national rankings in rushing defense (third, 93.5 yards per game), passes intercepted (ninth, 14 total), turnovers gained (13th, 20 total) and total defense (20th, 339.5 yards per game).

Early Line: FanDuel currently has the Tigers as 17.5-point favorites over the Panthers.