Playing Pitt is all downside, especially after their magic last time. Good thing for us NFL quarterback Nathan Peterman moved on and former OC Matt Canada is the interim head coach of Maryland. While Pitt is a 7-5 team, tying three other teams in the Coastal, they went 6-2 within the ACC. A 24-19 win over Georgia Tech turns out to be the key win to keep the Yellow Jackets in second place. Averaging out the advanced stat rankings, they fall around the 50 mark with the systems all over the map on their offensive and defensive rankings. They range from 28-51 on offense and 36-84 on defense. This could mean we have no idea what we’ll get from Pitt in the Championship game.
Pitt is a good, gritty rushing team riding a very good offensive line. LT Millin is Second-Team ACC, their C and RG are third team, and their LG and RT are honorable mentions. Their starting TB/RB is second team offense and their backup is third team. S&P+ loves their rushing offense, ranking them 12th overall and 11th in efficiency. They also pull off a lot of 20+ runs, ranking 10th. However, their center is hurt and will miss the game, reshuffling their line.
Quarterback is a different story. They aren’t efficient throwing the ball nor are they explosive. We could use a break. Of course, I’m sure QB Kenny Pickett could hit an open receiver if we decide to take a break. I wouldn’t try too many seam routes if I were them, though. Pickett has a sack rate of 9.6% (115th in S&P+ sack rate).
To beat a Brent Venables defense, a team has to attack all areas of the field. I can’t see a team that relies so heavily on its running game moving the ball against our front seven. However, if they can get lucky a few times, they shorten the game by going very slowly. S&P+ puts them at 128 in terms of pace.
Defensively, they are middling for the most part. Their big weakness is allowing explosive running plays (125th). With Travis Etienne and our offensive line, which is very good, we should have our way. DE Rashad Weaver may be their best player on defense with 12 TFL and 5 sacks. CB Dane Jackson is a good player with 12 PBU and an honorable All ACC mention, as is FS Damar Hamlin.
Bottom line, this game shouldn’t be close. Dabo worked up his “us against the world” talking on the ACC teleconference earlier this week. The defense sleep walking against South Carolina should have them fired up against Pitt. Strange things have happened in college football, but Clemson is a 26-point favorite for good reasons. Win the game and fix the secondary issues in December.