NCAAF · Sat (10/23) @ 3:30pm ET
|Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA|
Our Pick: PITT Pittsburgh at -3.5 (-110). Claim your $250 deposit match when you sign up with BetRivers today!
Clemson had been one of the more reliable college football teams for bettors in recent years, going 50-35-1 against the spread (58.8%) from 2015 through 2020. This season was supposed to be more of the same. But at 4-2 straight up and 0-6 ATS, with one of the worst offenses in college football, it has not happened.
As for the Pitt Panthers, they are looking like a team on a mission. Behind the No. 3 scoring offense in the country, they are off to a 5-1 start (SU and ATS), their best since the 2015 season. But to be the man, you have to beat the man — for ACC teams, that means beating Clemson.
Can the Panthers make it happen when they host Clemson at Heinz Field on Saturday afternoon?
A downslide is expected when you lose the kind of talent the Tigers did to the NFL after the 2020 season. But the Tigers had shown in recent years they could reload and continue to dominate without missing a beat. DJ Uiagalelei is no Trevor Lawrence, but he looked great when he filled in during the 2020 season.
However, the team around him is not as talented as last season’s. The protection is not terrible, but running backs Kobe Pace and Will Shipley are not as dynamic as Travis Etienne. At wide receiver, Justyn Ross is having a decent season along with Joseph Ngata — otherwise, the talent is lacking.
As shocking as it is to see Clemson with one of the worst offenses in college football (No. 115 in total yards and No. 114 in scoring), that is the new reality. Luckily, their defense is still one of the best in the country and the reason they are not out of the ACC title hunt (yet). The Tigers defense is No. 2 in the country in scoring, giving up just 12.5 points a game. They are not dominant, but they are solid against the run (No. 27, 113.0 yards/game allowed) and pass (No. 32, 201.7 yards/game allowed).
But besides Georgia, they have not faced any overly challenging offenses. Pitt’s offense, however, will be challenging. So far, the Panthers have the No. 3 scoring offense in the country (48.3 points/game).
Pitt has not been a bad team since joining the ACC in 2013, but it has not been a particularly good one, either. Last season, the Panthers finished just a game above .500 with a 6-5 record. But with the talent and experience coming back, there was hope for the 2021 season. If they live up to their potential, the 2021 college football season could be the best one yet for Pitt since joining the ACC.
There were high hopes for the passing game with quarterback Kenny Pickett coming back along with six of 2020’s top seven receivers. That talent and experience have translated into the country’s No. 6 passing offense (358.0 yards per game) this season. Along with a run game averaging 172.5 yards per game (up from 119.9 last season), the offense is generating an average of 530.5 yards.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Panthers are solid but not great. The pass rush is one of the better ones in the country (No. 34 in sacks). They are limiting teams to just 100.2 yards a game on the ground (No. 17) and 219.2 through the air (T-No. 58).
There are questions around their strength of schedule. The Panthers have dominated the teams they should have dominated (UMass, New Hampshire). They have defeated the teams they should have beaten (Tennessee, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech). But they lost to a good Western Michigan team they should have been able to handle.
Their offense was just as dominant in that game as the rest, but the defense had a bad day. Should they have another bad one against Clemson, the Tigers could pull off the upset.
For the first time since their 2014 game against Florida State, Clemson enters an ACC game as the underdog. With how they have been playing, that comes as no surprise. Yes, they are still winning games, but the Tigers offense has been stagnant. While the Pitt defense is not an overly dominant one, it is hard to see Clemson having much success against the Panthers D.
The spread is probably as close as it is because oddsmakers are showing Clemson’s defense some respect — but there is little chance the Tigers keep this game that competitive. Statistically, the Clemson defense has been dominant, but it has yet to face a good offense. Pitt may not throw for 350 yards against them, but Kenny Pickett will throw for enough.