The 23rd-ranked Pitt Panthers (5-1) have been on fire lately and they look to continue their strong start against the scuffling Clemson Tigers (4-2). Clemson has won three of its last four, but those victories came by a combined 15 points, while the Panthers have won three in a row by a combined margin 122 points.
Of course, Clemson remains a dangerous team and at some point this season they are going to catch fire. Will that be this weekend against the Panthers? We'll find out soon enough, but for now this is a game with ACC title implications.
BRYAN DRISKELL, PUBLISHER
Prediction: Pitt 27, Clemson 16
I can't believe I'm actually making this prediction. I told IB listeners this summer that Clemson was going to take a step back, but I absolutely did not see it taking this far of a step back. From 2018-20 the Tiger offense had just three games with fewer than 400 yards of total offense. Through just six games of the 2021 season the Tigers have not only had four games with fewer than 400 yards of offense, Clemson has three games with fewer than 300 yards of offense.
Pitt ranks 8th nationally in sacks per game and 17th in tackles for loss per game and they are matched up against a Clemson offensive line that has struggled this season. Clemson has some matchups on the perimeter that I think they can exploit, but I'm not sure DJ Uiagalelei will have enough time to get the ball down the field. That will combine with the lack of a running game to keep the Tiger offense out of the end zone for much of the game.
Pitt's offense has finally found some balance and the result has been quite impressive. The Panthers are scoring 48.3 points and 530.5 yards per game and have topped 40 points in all but one game this season. Quarterback Kenny Pickett (322.3 yards per game, 69.8 comp. %, 21-1 TD to INT ratio) has been brilliant this season, and he's getting help from a solid one-two backfield punch of Israel Abanikanda and Vincent Davis.
Clemson's defense is outstanding, but turnovers and short fields will allow the Panther offense to put enough points on the board to win this one.
VINCE DEDARIO, FOOTBALL ANALYST
Prediction: Pitt 24, Clemson 13
I think this is the hardest of the games to call from a win lose perspective. Clemson comes into this game as the underdog because while they have a top ten defense their offense can't seem to score more than 20 per game. Clemson fans would be overjoyed with Notre Dame's offense right about now. Pitt is averaging over 40 points per game and Clemson is holding teams to about 15. Something has to give here. Two elite defenses going head to head could be a wash but when comparing the two offenses it is not hard to know where to go. I will take Pitt in this one but I am also taking the under.
GRANT DELVECCHIO, STAFF WRITER
Prediction: Pitt 24, Clemson 17
This is the game Pitt makes their ACC championship hopes a reality. Clemson is more than capable of pulling off the upset, but I don't trust the Tigers' offense enough to keep up with the Panthers', even if Clemson has another strong defensive performance like I expect them to. Pitt won't get the same offensive production they've been used to so far this season, but it will still be enough.
SHAUN DAVIS, ESPN CHICAGO
Prediction: Pitt 24, Clemson 20
Fifth-year quarterback Kenny Pickett made the best decision by returning for the season. He’s become a Heisman candidate thanks to his 21 touchdowns and 322 passing yards per game in the first six contests. Last season, Pickett threw four interceptions against Clemson, so he’ll be looking for a bit of redemption on Saturday to say the least. This means the Tigers defense will be put to the test as they come in ranked 24th in yards allowed and 2nd in points scored.
The defense should be bolstered by the return of cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. who missed the last two games with hamstring tightness. The Tigers will also experience new territory in conference play, as they will be an underdog for the first time since Oct 1, 2016, when DeShaun Watson faced off against Lamar Jackson and Louisville. Clemson’s anemic offense is tallying 14.8 points per game with a high mark of 21 points against North Carolina State.
RYAN ROBERTS, RISENDRAFT
Prediction: Clemson 24, Pitt 17
Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett comes back to reality a little bit this week. Clemson has left a lot to be desired but they scratch and claw for a close victory. Their defense leads the way in this one.
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