Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei (5) looks for a receiver during the fourth quarter of the team’s NCAA football game against Syracuse in Syracuse, N.Y., Friday, Oct. 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Joshua Bessex)
- The Pitt Panthers are 3.5-point home favorites over the Clemson Tigers in their NCAA football game slated for Saturday, October 23rd
- It’s the first time since 2016 that the Tigers aren’t the favorites in a regular-season game
- Clemson has won the past two meetings with Pitt by a combined margin of 94-27
On the surface, seeing the Clemson Tigers rated an underdog to the Pitt Panthers on Saturday might be the cause for a double take. However, if you’ve been paying attention to the 2021 NCAA football season, the way the numbers are adding up is making perfect sense.
The Tigers aren’t looking like Clemson this season. And the Panthers aren’t looking like Pitt. Call it the college football version of Freaky Friday.
Ranked #23 in the nation, the 5-1 Panthers are 3.5-point home favorites over the 4-2 Tigers. Pitt and Clemson have actually split the all-time series 2-2.
Clemson vs Pittsburgh Odds
|Clemson||+138||+3.5 (-124)||O 47.5 (-115)|
|Pitt||-170||-3.5 (102)||U 47.5 (-105)|
Odds as of October 20th at FanDuel
Kickoff for Saturday’s game at Heinz Field is 3:30pm ET. The weather forecast is calling for rain, 6 mph wind and a game-time temperature of 53 degrees. ESPN will be carrying the broadcast.
Tigers In the Tank
The last time that Clemson was an underdog in an ACC game, or any regular-season game for that matter, was on October 1st, 2016 against Louisville.
That game saw Louisville set as the one-point chalk. Featuring a quarterback battle between future NFL stars Lamar Jackson of Louisville and Deshaun Watson of Clemson, Watson led the Tigers to a 42-36 upset victory.
Saturday: Clemson (+3) at Pittsburgh
Clemson is a regular-season underdog for the first time since 2016: +1 vs. Louisville.
They haven’t been an underdog of at least 3 points since 2014: +9.5 at FSU, +9.5 at Georgia.
— Andrew Doughty (@DoughtyBetMGM) October 19, 2021
You have to go all the way back to 2014 to find Clemson as an underdog of more than a field goal in a regular-season game. That was against the Florida State Seminoles and QB Jameis Winston. Favored by 9.5 points, the Seminoles won, but Clemson covered in a 23-17 loss.
The line on this game has actually lengthened. Pitt opened as the 3-point chalk. Last season, the Tigers were the 26.5-point choice over the Panthers when the two schools met on the gridiron.
Panthers a Potent Squad
There hasn’t been this much excitement about a Pitt football team since the salad days of Tony Dorsett and Dan Marino. The best performance the Panthers have managed under current head coach Pat Narduzzi was an 8-5 slate in 2015, his first season at the helm.
The only blemish on #23 Pitt’s record is a 44-41 upset loss to Western Michigan. The Panthers are averaging 48.3 points per game, which is third in the nation. They are holding opponents to 20 points a game. That ranks 34th in the NCAA. Pitt’s offense rates #19 in the NCAA.
Is any QB in the 2022 NFL Draft playing better than Kenny Pickett right now?pic.twitter.com/4GcTuK77Te
— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) October 19, 2021
Pitt QB Kenny Pickett is casually mentioned in Heisman Trophy odds conversations. He’s currently at odds of +2200 to win the award. Pickett has thrown for 21 touchdowns against one interception. He shows a completion percentage of 69.8 and 1,934 yards passing. That works out to 322.3 yards per game through the air.
Defense Carrying Clemson
With the offense struggling to find an identity, it’s the defense that’s keeping the Tigers in games. Clemson is allowing a paltry 12.5 points per game, which is second-best among FBS schools. The Tigers are the #7 defense in the nation.
Tight, low-scoring games are the Tigers’ trademark this season. Clemson’s last two wins were 17-14 over Syracuse and 19-13 at the expense of Boston College. There was also a 14-8 triumph over Georgia Tech and a 10-3 setback at the hands of #1 Georgia.
I shouldn’t have to remind you of this, but Clemson played Georgia to within a touchdown.
That’s what an elite defense can do. #AllIn
— Marc Ryan (@MarcRyanOnAir) October 16, 2021
With possession of the ball, the Tigers aren’t turning heads. Their per-game average of 20.5 points rates 113th out of 130 FBS schools. They’ve not scored 20 points in regulation time against an FBS opponent this season, averaging just 14.8 points in those games.
Pitt Piling Up the Points
The same Georgia Tech team that held Clemson to 14 points surrendered 52 to Pitt. The Panthers also scored 77 on New Hampshire and 41 against Tennessee.
Is it a crazy notion then to suggest that the play on this game is to roll with the under? Perhaps not.
Clemson CB Mario Goodrich on being the underdog against Pitt: “I always treat (games) that way.”
— Alexis Cubit (@Alexis_Cubit) October 18, 2021
The Tigers still suit up an A-list group of defenders. Clemson held #1 Georgia to a 10-spot. The 7-0 Bulldogs are averaging 43.16 points in their other six games this season.
The Tigers are a perfect 6-0 on the under this season. If they can hold Georgia’s offense down, then they can handle Pitt’s group.
Puck: Under 47.5 points (-105)
An industry veteran, Bob literally taught the course on the history of sports at Elder College. He has worked as a Sports Columnist for Postmedia, appeared as a guest on several radio stations, was the Vice President of the Society For International Hockey Research in Ontario, and written 25 books.