Pittsburgh vs. Wake Forest ACC Championship Picks

by | Dec 3, 2021 | cfb

Pittsburgh Panthers (10-2 SU, 9-3 ATS) vs. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (10-2 SU, 6-6 ATS)
When: Saturday, December 4, 8 p.m.
Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.
TV: ABC
Point Spread: PITT -3/WAKE +3 (Get the best lines >>>)
Total: O/U 72.5

Outlook

This is the one Saturday conference title game that will not affect the College Football Playoff in any way, as neither Pittsburgh nor Wake Forest has any hope of getting anywhere close to the top four. The winner actually has no idea where it’s heading, as the Orange Bowl is being used as a semifinal this year and is thus closed off to the ACC champion. Instead, the winner of this game will likely play in either the Fiesta Bowl or the Peach Bowl. For the loser, the drop is a large one, as the loser is likely off to fall to the Cheez-It Bowl. While that could still mean a battle with a name opponent from the Big 12 — likely Oklahoma or Baylor — it’s really not a game that either of these teams wants to find itself playing in this winter.

Before they learn their destinations, there’s the matter of the ACC title game, which would be a first for Pittsburgh and a first since 2006 for Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons played in and won this game long before the Clemson dynasty took off, and they’ve managed to win their way back this season by taking advantage of the void left by Clemson’s demise. Pitt has rolled through what’s usually Coastal Chaos on the strength of Kenny Pickett’s arm, which has shown that Pickett deserves to be in consideration for the Heisman Trophy. With an ACC championship in tow, Pickett’s case for that honor would become a lot stronger, giving Pitt multiple reasons to want this game.

How the Public is Betting the Pittsburgh/Wake Forest Game

The public might be on Wake Forest, but the sharp money came in on Pittsburgh. The line has swung from Wake Forest -2 to Pittsburgh -3, despite 55 percent of tickets being on the Demon Deacons. The total has ticked up from 71.5 to 72.5.

Injury Concerns

Pittsburgh: Wide receiver Jaylen Barden (undisclosed) and wide receiver Taysir Mack (arm) are questionable. Running back A.J. Davis Jr. (undisclosed) is out.

Wake Forest: Offensive lineman Je’vionte Nash (undisclosed), linebacker Chase Monroe (undisclosed) and wide receiver Donavon Greene (undisclosed) are out.

When Pittsburgh Has the Ball

The Pitt running game is pedestrian, but when you have Kenny Pickett throwing for 40 touchdowns on the season, I wouldn’t bother running the ball much either. Pickett has thrown at least three touchdown passes in each of his past five games, and he’s topped that mark in eight games overall. The one thing that’s a bit concerning is that in the past five weeks, it’s looked like he’s pressed the issue a bit too much at times. After throwing just one pick in the first seven weeks of the season, he’s tossed six in five weeks and the only team he didn’t throw an interception to in the past five weeks was Duke. As long as Pickett isn’t overwhelmed by the chance to win Pitt’s first conference title since 2010 as members of the Big East, there shouldn’t be too many issues with Wake’s middling defense. The Deacons are better at stopping the pass than they are the run, but that doesn’t mean they’re good at either. Wake is giving up 29 points per game, so regardless of whether Pitt chooses to attack with Pickett and Jordan Addison or take advantage of the soft Wake run defense with Israel Abanikanda, the Panthers should be able to put up some big yardage and big numbers.

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When Wake Forest Has the Ball

The Deacons don’t have Pickett, but Sam Hartman isn’t a bad option under center. Only Pickett and N.C. State’s Devin Leary have more passing touchdowns among ACC quarterbacks than Hartman, who has been key in Wake’s rise to the top of the Atlantic Division. However, when the passing attack slows down, the Deacons can be easily beaten, as happened against Clemson when Hartman managed just one touchdown pass against one interception. Like Pitt, Wake doesn’t really like to run the ball. Unlike Pitt, Wake doesn’t really have a reason to run the ball in this matchup, because the Panthers’ defense is stout against the run but very soft against the pass. Pitt gave up 29 points against Duke’s weak attack, which suggests there’s very little reason to believe the Panthers can keep the Deacons in check. This honestly might be a game of whoever has the ball last is going to win the game.

Betting Trends

These teams don’t play each other often enough to have anything resembling a trend against each other. In fact, this is only the second time Wake and Pitt have ever met, with the Panthers beating the Deacons 34-13 in Winston-Salem in 2018. Even with Wake’s offense, the Deacons have hit a few lulls with the total, as they failed to hit it against Virginia, Duke, Boston College and Florida State. Those teams all have something in common, though: none of them managed to top 17 points against Wake Forest, as the Deacons have scored at least 35 points in nine of their past 10 games. Pitt tends to be hit or miss on its totals, as the offense sometimes clicks on all cylinders and sometimes doesn’t show up. The Panthers have been a much better bet ATS, as they’ve covered in seven of their past nine games, with Miami and Virginia the lone exceptions.

Weather Report

Rain won’t be an issue here, as it’s going to be a cool, cloudy night without precipitation. Temperatures will hit 44 degrees, with wind blowing northeast at six miles per hour.

Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread

I love the total here, but as for the spread, I think Pitt is the better move. I think Wake Forest got exposed by Clemson and North Carolina, and I don’t think the Deacons can stop Pickett long enough to keep him off the field and let Hartman go to work. This looks like a shootout, and I think Pitt gets its first ACC title. Give me the Panthers.

NFC WEST GAME OF THE YEAR! (1/30)

Ben Burns Sports Handicapper

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