For the first time since 2014, the ACC will have a champion other than the Clemson Tigers. This season’s game will feature a pair of 10-win teams, the Pitt Panthers and the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Unlike most of Clemson’s title games, this should be a competitive, entertaining contest.
NCAAF · Sat (12/4) @ 8:27pm ET
|Bank of American Stadium, Charlotte, NC|
Pittsburgh Panthers (10-2 SU, 9-3 ATS)
The Panthers have pretty much been in charge of their own destiny in the ACC all season long. Had they not lost to Miami a few weeks ago, they might have had a shot at the College Football Playoffs with a win over the Atlantic Division representative in the ACC Championship game.
Since they did, the playoffs are out of reach, but a New Year’s Six bowl game is not.
The loss to Miami can be attributed to Kenny Pickett having an uncharacteristic day with two interceptions and the pass defense having its worst game of the season. The pass defense had held the last two opponents to less than 200 yards passing and had only allowed two teams to throw for 300+.
After throwing just one interception in the first seven games, Pickett had two against Miami, and both were costly. One led to an easy touchdown for the Hurricanes, and the other killed Pitt’s final drive of the game.
Pickett rebounded with a 416-yard, three-touchdown game the following week against Duke and led the Panthers to wins in their last four regular-season games (vs. Duke, North Carolina, Virginia, and Syracuse). While he has thrown four more interceptions in those games, he also had 14 touchdowns and averaged 300+ yards a game.
But while the defense had solid outings against Duke and Syracuse, it gave up over 500 yards of offense to the Cavaliers. With the offense disappearing in the second half against North Carolina, the 17 points the Pitt defense gave up to the Tar Heels sent the game to overtime.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons (10-2 SU, 6-6 ATS)
The journey to the ACC title game was not as clean for Wake Forest as it was for Pitt. Heading into the North Carolina game the first week of November, the Demon Deacons were ranked inside the top 10 and had a shot at the College Football Playoffs. However, a 58-55 loss to the Tar Heels brought that dream to an end.
Since then, Wake Forest went 2-1 with an unexpected loss to Clemson sandwiched in between wins against NC State and Boston College. But the victories were not as clean as the Demon Deacons would have liked. Sam Hartman helped keep NC State in the game with three interceptions.
He was better against Boston College, but he still had a pick against the Eagles.
But what might make fans worry is how the offensive line played in those three games. In the first nine games of the year, the line gave up 13 sacks. But in those three games, they gave up another 13 (three to North Carolina and Boston College; seven to Clemson).
The run game struggled as well, with the team averaging 3.3 yards or less per carry. But Pitt’s pass defense is one of the worst in the conference (12th), so the offense will likely lean on Hartman and the passing game anyway. If the Wake Forest pass defense (5th in the conference) struggles against Pitt’s second-ranked pass offense, this game could turn into a shootout.
Wake Forest Vs. Pittsburgh Pick
Over 71.5 (FanDuel)
When two prolific scoring teams like Pitt and Wake Forest meet, bettors and fans can almost be assured of one thing— points. Pitt averages 42.8 a game and Wake Forest 42.9. But Pitt comes into the game winning its last four and playing well on both sides of the ball.
Wake Forest, however, went 2-2. While the offense has been productive, the defense has struggled. Yes, it held Boston College to just 10, but Clemson, NC State, and North Carolina scored 48, 42, and 55.
Do not be surprised if this one comes down to whoever has the ball last.