Pittsburgh vs. Clemson Pick: ACC Championship Betting Preview
No. 2 Clemson Tigers (12-0 SU, 6-6 ATS) vs. Pittsburgh Panthers (7-5 SU, 7-5 ATS)
NCAA Football Week 14
Date/Time: Saturday December 1st, 2018. 8:00PM (EST)
Where: Bank of America Stadium Charlotte, N.C.
Point Spread:CLEM -25/PITT +25
Over/Under Total: TBA
Late Saturday night the no. 2 ranked Clemson Tigers will look to maintain supremacy in the ACC when they seek their 4th straight ACC Championship against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. The Tigers have clearly been the class of the ACC this season and will be 25 point favorites to earn their 4th straight trip to the College Football Playoffs. For Pittsburgh, the Panthers had a 4 game winning streak snapped at the hands of Miami last week in a disappointing 24-3 loss. Despite the loss, the Panthers have been playing well and perhaps they can bounce back with a strong effort this weekend to make this ACC Championship Game entertaining at the least.
Clemson defense concerns emerging?
As stated before, Clemson has been extremely dominating throughout the year. Along with Alabama, Clemson is the only team in college football that ranks inside the top 5 in scoring on both the offensive and defensive side of the football. The Tigers defense is anchored by one of the best defensive lines in the country who are extremely stout against the run. The Tigers defensive line is also responsible for producing a ton of pressure on opposing quarterbacks with their pass rush. However, in last week’s rivalry game with South Carolina, Clemson’s defense showed some weaknesses for the first time this season.
The Tigers secondary was eaten alive by opposing quarterback Jake Bentley and WR Deebo Samuel. Bentley threw for 510 yards with 5 touchdowns, and Samuel caught 10 passes for 210 yards with 3 touchdowns. It was surprising to see the Gamecocks have so much success on offense against Clemson given the Tigers dominance on the defensive side of the ball this season. It was also one of the first times an offense has attacked Clemson’s secondary relentlessly in the passing game. So perhaps the question now is can we trust Clemson’s pass defense? Do we have a legitimate concern going forward and can Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett find some similar success through the air?
Tigers offense still among the nation’s best
Despite the concerns from the defense, Clemson’s offense was still able to hang 56 points in the victory over South Carolina to eliminate the fear of an upset. The Tigers offensive potential likely eliminates the threat of an upset this week as well. Freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence has been having a great year and is on the heels of a 393-yard outing against South Carolina which is the best of his young career. If you remember, Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney’s decision to bench former starter Kelly Bryant in place of the freshman was a highly questionable decision earlier this year. Despite Kelly Bryant’s flawless mark as a starter in the regular season the last two years, Swinney opted to go with the freshman to help spark the passing attack. The transition was slow at times, but Lawrence has blossomed into the quarterback Clemson hoped for, and this offense is poised to wreak havoc on opposing defenses.
Along with the passing attack, Clemson has a great running game with running backs Travis Etienne, Adam Choice, and Tavien Feaster. Etienne leads the ACC in rushing with 1,307 yards and 19 touchdowns. I know Clemson is primarily considered a passing offense, but they are at their best when they establish the run. The downside to this week’s match-up for Pittsburgh is that the Panthers have not been great against the run nor the pass as they have allowed nearly 400 yards of total offense on average. Therefore, I believe Clemson’s offense will continue to strive in another upside matchup.
Key to Clemson covering the spread
I don’t have any doubt that Clemson’s offense will put relentless pressure on Pittsburgh’s defense. They are playing as well as anyone in college football on the offensive side of the football and honestly, have better talent at nearly every position. The test that will determine who covers the spread in this game comes down to one question: can Pittsburgh’s offense generate points? In many ways, this seems like a bounce-back spot for both the Pittsburgh offense and the Clemson defense after disappointing performances last week. Obviously, that can’t happen for both groups. Therefore, I think this game best suits Clemson’s defenses in the bounce-back performance. The majority of the Panthers success has stemmed from their ability to run the football and play off the running game. I don’t think that will happen this week because Clemson’s strength is along their defensive front where they have stymied opposing rushing attacks to just 2.23 yards per rush attempt which is by far the best margin in college football. Therefore, I think Clemson’s is poised to shine on both sides of the ball in this match-up.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Clemson -25