Clemson vs. Pitt prediction: Senior Day and Military Appreciation rolled into one Saturday


by - Senior Writer -
Clemson takes on Pitt at 3:30 pm Saturday.
Clemson takes on Pitt at 3:30 pm Saturday.

Another home season has come to an end. It wasn’t normal. In fact, it was bizarre. But it was football, and for that, this Thanksgiving weekend, we are thankful. Instead of the South Carolina Gamecocks coming to town, it’s a confident Pitt Panther team on what will be Military Appreciation Day and Senior Day.

It's a chance to see players like Amari Rodgers, Trevor Lawrence, and Travis Etienne a final time as players in Death Valley while we celebrate Clemson’s military heritage.

The contest will represent Clemson's first game action in 21 days. Clemson has often had similar (and longer) layoffs prior to postseason play, but the 21-day layoff is Clemson's longest between regular-season games in a single season since 1918, when Clemson went 28 days between games against Georgia Tech and South Carolina.

NO. 4/4 CLEMSON (7-1, 6-1 ACC) vs. PITTSBURGH (5-4, 4-4 ACC)

WHEN: SATURDAY, NOV. 28, 3:30 P.M. ET
WHERE: MEMORIAL STADIUM, CLEMSON, S.C.
TELEVISION: ABC (Sean McDonough, Todd Blackledge, Todd McShay, Molly McGrath)
RADIO: Clemson Tigers Network (Don Munson, Tim Bourret, Reggie Merriweather)
SATELLITE RADIO: Sirius 83, XM 83, Internet 83

CLEMSON/PITT SERIES HISTORY

OVERALL: Clemson trails series, 1-2
HOME: Clemson trails series, 0-1
ROAD: N/A
NEUTRAL: Series is even, 1-1
LAST MEETING: Dec. 1, 2018 (42-10, W)
STREAK: Clemson, Won 1

NOTABLE

*Clemson's seniors are in the midst of a historic run at home. Clemson is attempting to extend its current school record by winning a 28th consecutive game at home and perhaps avenge its only home loss since 2014, a 43-42 loss to Pitt in 2016. In the last four years, Clemson's senior class is 26-0 in Death Valley, one victory away from tying the 2017, 2018 and 2019 Clemson seniors (27 wins each) for the most career wins at Memorial Stadium. With a win this week, Clemson's senior class can become the first Clemson class ever to go undefeated in Death Valley since the facility's opening in 1942 and can become the first FBS senior class to post a perfect career record at home since the 2010 Boise State (26-0) and Oklahoma (25-0) seniors.

*Trevor Lawrence is an academic senior and among those eligible to be honored on Senior Day. In his long-awaited return on Saturday, he will attempt to tie the school record with his 32nd career win as Clemson's starting quarterback.

*Saturday's contest will feature two of college football's most disruptive defenses. Clemson has recorded 391 sacks and 1,034 tackles for loss since hiring Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables in 2012, the most in the nation in both categories. Over the last two seasons, Pitt and Clemson rank No. 1 and 2, respectively, in the country in both sacks and tackles for loss, with the two teams combining for 168 sacks and 392 tackles for loss in that span.

WHEN PITT HAS THE BALL

QB Kenny Pickett is coming off one of the finest games of his career, throwing for 404 yards and accounting for three touchdowns (two passing) in the Panthers' 47-14 demolition of Virginia Tech at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh has scored 88 points in the two games since Pickett's return from an ankle injury. Pickett is averaging 286.1 passing yards per game and has 10 touchdown throws to four interceptions. Pitt is 13th out of 15 teams in the ACC in rushing offense, averaging just 109.56 yards per game.

The Panthers are fourth in the league in passing offense, however, averaging 270.1 yards per game. Freshman wide receiver Jordan Addison leads the way with 52 receptions for 611 yards, good for fourth in the ACC. Six receivers have double-digit receptions.

The good news for the Tigers is that some of the injured defenders should be back, including SAM linebacker Mike Jones, Jr., and defensive tackle Tyler Davis. Davis makes a difference in the run game and the pass game, and even though his snaps might be limited, he changes the entire defense.

Expect the Tigers to get after Pickett early and often.

ADVANTAGE: SLIGHT TO CLEMSON

WHEN CLEMSON HAS THE BALL

This matchup is strength against strength. Clemson is second in the league in total offense and Pitt is third in the league (and 13th nationally) in total defense. Pitt is fifth nationally in rushing defense, allowing just over 87 yards per game. Pitt leads the country in total tackles for loss (97) and tackles for loss per game (10.8). Linebacker SirVocea Dennis paces the ACC and ranks third nationally with 13.5 TFLs. The Panthers have a national-best 40 sacks, an average of 4.44 sacks per contest. Clemson quarterbacks have only been sacked 13 times this year (1.63 per game).

Pitt leads the ACC and ranks fourth nationally with 12 intercepted passes this season, the Panthers' most since 2012. Clemson has only thrown three interceptions and averages 353.6 pass yards, tops in the ACC and fifth in the nation.

It’s hard to believe Clemson is 11th in the ACC and 74th nationally in rushing yards per game, but that is where the Tigers stand. Teams have dedicated themselves to stopping Clemson’s run game. I asked both offensive coordinator Tony Elliott and head coach Dabo Swinney about that this week, and both said they aren’t worried about the stats – if teams want to stop the run, they will simply throw it all over the field.

Clemson will be without Frank Ladson and Joseph Ngata Saturday, but Cornell Powell has 17 grabs for 266 yards in the last two games. This is the time when we see EJ Williams begin to break out and the tight ends get even more involved in the passing game.

ADVANTAGE: SLIGHT TO CLEMSON

SPECIAL TEAMS

Kirk Christodoulou of Pitt is fifth in the ACC in punting at 44.39 yards per game, but Clemson’s Will Spiers would be third in the league (just over 47 yards per punt) if he had enough punts to qualify. Kicker Alex Kessman is 18-of-24 on field goals for the Panthers, while Clemson’s BT Potter is 14-of-18 (and three of those were blocks that were not his fault). Neither team really registers among the leaders in returns, but Amari Rodgers is dangerous for the Tigers.

ADVANTAGE: CLEMSON

WHAT WILL HAPPEN

Pitt is well-coached, and that defensive line is legit. The quarterback has played a lot of football. In other words, this team is dangerous. But Clemson is itching to get back on the field, and I wrote last week that I think the Tigers are getting ready to go off. Clemson needs to get to Pickett, not turn the ball over, and simply take what the defense gives them. If they do that, the final score will be bigger than some people might think.

FINAL SCORE: CLEMSON 44, PITT 14

More TigerNet picks
Mickey Plyler - 6-9 AM on WCCP 105.5FM - 44-20 Clemson
Nikki Hood - Staff writer - 49-17 Clemson
Brandon Rink - Staff writer - 45-17 Clemson
Pigskin Prophet - 41-17 Clemson
Tony Crumpton - Associate Editor - 42-7 Clemson*

(* Picking the same score all season)

Game Actual David Hood Mickey Plyler Nikki Hood Brandon Rink Pigskin Prophet Tony Crumpton
Wake Forest 37-13 CU 42-9 CU 49-10 CU 49-13 CU 47-10 CU 44-13 CU 42-7 CU
The Citadel 49-0 CU 52-7 CU 57-6 CU 59-7 CU 55-0 CU 62-6 CU 42-7 CU
Virginia 41-23 CU 38-12 CU 41-14 CU 52-17 CU 45-16 CU 41-13 CU 42-7 CU
Miami 42-17 CU 37-16 CU 38-23 CU 38-20 CU 37-20 CU 41-20 CU 42-7 CU
GT 73-7 CU 45-13 CU 51-13 CU 52-7 CU 55-10 CU 44-13 CU 42-7 CU
Syracuse 47-21 CU 62-9 CU 63-10 CU 70-3 CU 59-6 CU 63-3 CU 42-7 CU
BC 34-28 CU 37-17 CU 34-20 CU 35-7 CU 27-17 CU 44-20 CU 42-7 CU
Notre Dame 47-40 ND 2OT 30-20 CU 24-20 CU 28-14 CU 27-23 CU 30-13 CU 42-7 CU
Pitt 52-17 CU 44-14 CU 44-20 CU 49-17 CU 45-17 41-17 CU 42-7 CU
Points - 8 12 10 12 12 10

* Points: 3 pts for best correct prediction of the week (tiebreaker is Clemson score), 2 pts for picking score exactly, 1 pt for picking the correct winner

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