Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 14:01 PM
ACC Championship Preview
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Matchup: Clemson vs. Pittsburgh
Date: Saturday, Dec. 1
Time/TV: 8:00 p.m. ET - ABC
Venue: Bank of America Stadium
Location: Charlotte, N.C.
Line, Total: Tigers -27.5, 52.5
The Atlantic Coast Conference will crown a champion in Charlotte on Saturday, and the playoff-hopeful Clemson Tigers (12-0 straight-up, 6-6 against the spread) are largely expected to run away in a rout over the Pittsburgh Panthers (7-5 straight-up, 7-5 against the spread).
These teams will be meeting for the first time since the Panthers stunned the Tigers 43-42 in Death Valley on Nov. 12, 2016 as 21 1/2-point underdogs.
Clemson rolled through the schedule without many scares, especially after the early portion of their schedule. They squeaked out a 28-26 win at Texas A&M on Sept. 8, and narrowly escaped with a 27-23 win over Syracuse on Sept. 29. That near-miss against the Orange served as a wake-up call, as they combined to win their next four games against Wake Forest, N.C. State, Florida State and Louisville by a combined 240-36. They finished up with a pair of non-covers against Duke and rival South Carolina, but those games were never really in doubt, especially in the second half.
Pitt will be making their first-ever ACC title game appearance, and they took the circuitous route to get there. No one seemed to want to win the Coastal Division. Everyone had three or more conference losses except for the Panthers, who despite losing five games overall, had just two losses in the league. Despite the fact they're in the championship game, they have a point differential of just plus-3. They were routed by Penn State 51-6 on Sept. 8. They were routed at UCF by a 45-14 score on Sept. 29. They were toppled 19-14 by Notre Dame on Oct. 13, and they were punched in the mouth by a 24-3 score in Miami in the season finale. The last game was perhaps the most excusable, as the young Panthers already had the ACC title game berth sewn up and they just didn't show to the stadium. It snapped a six-game cover streak dating back to Sept. 29.
The Tigers are making their fourth consecutive appearance in the ACC title game, and they're a perfect 3-0 SU and 2-1 ATS. They routed the Hurricanes 38-3 as 12 1/2-point favorites last season, and they're nearly a four-touchdown favorite to take home the hardware for a fourth straight year. They have also won five straight appearance in the ACC title game after losing their initial appearance to Georgia Tech during the 2009 installment of this game.
Clemson ranked third overall in the country with 540.1 yards per game, and they checked in fifth in the land with 45.7 points per game (PPG). They have a very balanced attack, ranking 12th in the country in rushing yardage per game at 257.8 yards, while finishing 24th in passing yards per game at 282.3 yards. They're not one of those one-trick pony teams who need to outscore teams because of a poor defense. Their D is nasty, too. They allowed just 290.2 yards per game to rank ninth in the nation, and they allowed just 91.8 yards per game on the ground to finish second overall. They also gave up 14.0 PPG, finishing fourth.
Tigers QB Trevor Lawrence took over the starting duties early in the season from the departed QB Kelly Bryant, and he managed to complete 200-of-303 (66.0 percent) for 2,488 yards, 22 touchdowns and four interceptions while also running for 133 yards and a score. RB Travis Etienne emerged as a superstar, gobbling up 1,308 rushing yards with 19 touchdowns and a ridiculous 8.0 yards per carry. RB Lyn-J Dixon was a nice change of pace with 531 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 10.2 yards per tote. RB Tavien Feaster also plunged into the end zone six times.
In the passing game it's WR Tee Higgins trying to be the next great Clemson receiver. He led the way with 49 grabs, 766 yard and eight touchdowns, while WRs Justyn Ross, Amari Rodgers and Hunter Renfrow combined for 1,615 yards and 11 touchdowns, with Ross getting into the end zone six times. Renfrow (head) is listed as questionable for Saturday's game due to a head injury suffered late in the season.
For the Panthers, QB Kenny Pickett finished the season strong, completed 62.3 percent of his passes for 1,825 yards, 12 touchdowns and five interceptions and he rushed for 186 yards and three scores on the ground. He isn't necessarily a dual threat, but teams do have to be mindful for the occasional run. Speaking of running, RB Qadree Ollison finished with 1,134 yards and 10 scores to lead the way, giving Pitt a home-run hitter on the ground. RB Darrin Hall is also dangerous in the run game, averaging 7.6 yards per tote, rolling up 935 yard with nine scores. WR Taysir Mack and WR Maurice Ffrench were the best of the lot in the passing game, both nearly 500 yards. Ffrench led the team with six receiving yards, and he is a demon on special teams, too.
Betting Trends to Watch
-- The Tigers have racked up an impressive 10-2 ATS mark in their past 12 neutral-site games, while going 5-1 ATS in the past six ACC battles and 5-2 ATS in the past seven overall. Clemson is also 7-1 ATS across their past eight games played in the month of December.
-- Pitt has been crazy against the number lately, going 6-1 ATS in the past seven games overall while cashing in five of the past six ACC battles. The Panthers are also 4-1 ATS in the past five battles against teams with a winning record. However, Pitt is just 1-5 ATS in the past six appearances on a neutral-site field.
-- For Clemson, the 'under' is 6-2 in their past eight games in December while the under is 11-5 in Clemson's past 16 against teams with a winning record.
-- For Pittsburgh, the 'under' is 17-7-1 in their past 25 games, while hitting in 11 of the past 16 conference battles. The under is also 9-3 in the past 12 against teams with a winning overall record. However, the 'over' is 4-1 in their past five appearances on a neutral-site field.
ACC Championship History
|ACC Championship (2005-2018)|