Clemson University

Final thoughts, predictions as Clemson faces Pitt in ACC championship

Clemson is expected to roll in the ACC championship game Saturday night in Charlotte as the Tigers are favored by 27.5 points.

It is going to be a wet night in the Queen City as rain is expected to fall all day and thunderstorms are possible late.

The rain may favor a Pittsburgh team that loves to run the ball, but the Panthers don’t have enough talent or team speed to play with Clemson for four quarters.

Clemson has a legendary senior class, led by defensive tackle Christian Wilkins and receiver Hunter Renfrow. The Tigers seniors lost only one home game over the past four years – to Pitt.

Clemson defensive linemen Clelin Ferrell, Austin Bryant and Wilkins considered turning pro following the 2017 season before deciding to return to school to try to improve their draft stocks and do something special.

The Tigers could take a big step towards doing something special by avenging the loss to Pittsburgh, becoming the first team in ACC history to win four consecutive ACC titles outright and clinching a spot in the College Football Playoff for the fourth consecutive year.

As if making history isn’t enough incentive for the Tigers, Clemson’s defense is also looking to bounce back after what defensive coordinator Brent Venables called an “embarrassing” performance against South Carolina last week.

Yes, the Panthers have a strong rushing attack with a pair of running backs that have combined for more than 2,000 yards. But Pitt is averaging about 150 passing yards per game, which is No. 120 nationally. You can’t move the ball against Clemson by being one-dimensional, and the Tigers defense will be mad after allowing 600 yards last week.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney described Pitt as “gritty” earlier this week, and that is an accurate description. The Panthers have been outgained this year but still reached the ACC title game with a 7-5 (6-2) record.

But being gritty won’t be enough against a Clemson team that is playing for history and that will be playing in front of a crowd of mostly Tigers fans.

ESPN college football analysts Lee Corso and Desmond Howard picked Clemson to win during College GameDay Saturday morning, as did guest picker Quavo, who is a rapper and a member of Migos. I also expect the Tigers to roll.

Prediction: Clemson 48, Pitt 7

Matt Connolly is the Clemson beat writer and covers recruiting and college sports for The State newspaper and The State.com
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