For the first time in seven seasons the ACC will have a new football champion. #15 Pittsburgh (10-2) and #16 Wake Forest (10-2) both had outstanding seasons thanks to dynamic offenses.
This game not only has a championship and major bowl berth on the line, it is a matchup between two of the nation's best quarterbacks. Pitt signal caller Kenny Pickett (4,066 yards, 40 TD) and Wake Forest passer Sam Hartman (3,711 yards, 34 TD) have lit up scoreboards all season.
Wake Forest is looking to win its first conference title since 2006 and the Panthers have yet to win a title since joining the ACC in 2013.
Here are our staff predictions.
BRYAN DRISKELL, PUBLISHER
Prediction: Pittsburgh 44, Wake Forest 31
There are so many similarities between these two explosive offenses, which rank 1st (Wake) and 2nd (Pitt) in the ACC in scoring offense, and 2nd (Pitt) and 3rd (Wake) in total offense. Wake Forest is scoring 42.9 points per game and Pitt is scoring 42.8 points per game. Pittsburgh averaged 512.8 yards per game while Wake Forest finished the regular season at 483.6 yards per game.
Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett ranked second in the ACC In passing yards and Wake's Sam Hartman ranked third. Pitt wideout Jordan Addison led the league in receiving yards (1,353) and touchdown receptions (17) and second in catches (85). Wake Forest had two receivers go over 1,000 yards, sophomore A.T. Perry (1.112 yards, 13 TD) and Jaquarii Roberson (1,024 yards, 8 TD).
Both teams scored over 40 points per game away from home this season as well.
So why am I going with Pittsburgh by almost two touchdowns? For all their similarities on offense, there are dramatic differences on defense. Pitt ranks 5th in the ACC in scoring defense (23.3) while Wake Forest ranks 10th at 29.1 points per game. Pitt also ranks 5th in total defense (353.7 yards) while Wake is 11th (427.2) in the league.
Pitt has a far more disruptive defense, one that finished with 97 tackles for loss and 46 sacks, both of which led the ACC. Wake Forest finished the season with 83 TFLs and 32 sacks. The one area where Wake has thrived on defense this season is turnovers, as the Deacons lead the league in turnovers forced (27), which is 10 more than Pittsburgh. If the Deacons can continue that in this game they can not only keep it close, they can win it. If they don't force turnovers I am going with Pitt.
VINCE DEDARIO, FOOTBALL ANALYST
Prediction: Pittsburgh 37, Wake Forest 35
It was nice of college football to allow the JV to play on Championship Saturday as Pitt and Wake square off in the ACC title game. Wake was a media darling for the first three quarters of the season before being brought back to reality by North Carolina of all teams.
Pitt has quietly put together a decent season that was enough to get Par Narduzzi's name in the Notre Dame coaching vacancy discussion. Pitt has a pretty solid defense and a QB that should be on his doctorate by now it feels like so there should not be any jitters there.
Wake can certainly score the football so what gives? The Wake offense or the Pitt defense? I actually think Pitt is the more balanced team and that they will prevail in what has just been a down year for the ACC.
ANDREW MCDONOUGH, IB CONTRIBUTOR
Prediction: Pittsburgh 45, Wake Forest 42
In the first ACC Championship game since 2014 without Clemson, two high-powered offenses meet in Charlotte. Pitt QB Kenny Pickett and WR Jordan Addison are looking to make a final impression on Heisman voters and get an invite to New York, while Wake Forest, led by QB Sam Hartman, is looking to secure its first ACC Championship since 2006. In what figures to be a high scoring affair, this game will come down to whichever defense can make one more stop, and I'll go with Pitt to pull it out and punch a ticket to the Orange Bowl.
SHAUN DAVIS, ESPN CHICAGO
Prediction: Pittsburgh 45, Wake Forest 42
Kenny Pickett is still in the running for the Heisman trophy and his performance on Saturday could go a long way to putting that honor within his grasp. The ACC Offensive Player of the Year will have to be at his best to keep up with the potent Demon Deacons offense. These are two of the top 11 passing offenses in the country, but the fuse to the fireworks will be Pitt’s lackluster pass defense (100th nationally) and Wake Forest’s rush defense (100th nationally). The scoreboard will be on fire in this one
RYAN ROBERTS, RISENDRAFT
Prediction: Wake Forest 48, Pittsburgh 37
Kenny Pickett and the Pittsburgh offense has been humming all season. Wake is going to give up their fair share of big plays. Luckily they have the offense to match - and then some.
Irish Breakdown Content
Become a premium Irish Breakdown member, which grants you access to all of our premium content and our premium message board! Click on the link below for more.
Be sure to stay locked into Irish Breakdown all the time!
Join the Irish Breakdown community!
Subscribe to the Irish Breakdown YouTube channel
Subscribe to the Irish Breakdown podcast on iTunes
Follow me on Twitter: @CoachD178
Like and follow Irish Breakdown on Facebook