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Countdown to kickoff: Pitt at No. 2 Clemson

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Clemson and the University of Pittsburgh will meet for the first time since the 1977 Gator Bowl when the Panthers visit Death Valley on Saturday. The game is schedule to kick off at 3:36 p.m. and will be broadcast nationally on ABC.

The Tigers can clinch the ACC’s Atlantic Division title with a victory or a Louisville loss to Wake Forest.

 

About Pitt: Three of Pitt’s four losses this season have been by a combined 11 points, an average margin of 3.7 points per game: Virginia Tech (39-36), North Carolina (37-36) and Oklahoma State (45-38). The 23-point loss at Miami (51-28) was Pitt’s largest margin of defeat this season. Two of Pitt’s losses came on late scores. In the one-point defeat at North Carolina, the Tar Heels’ winning points came on a two-yard touchdown pass with two seconds to go. At Oklahoma State, the Cowboys scored on a one-yard run with 1:28 remaining to claim a seven-point win.

Pitt’s offense: Over its last eight contests, Pitt has scored a combined 305 points, an average of 38.1 points per game. It is the Panthers’ highest point total over an eight-game stretch in 39 years. The 1977 season was the last time a Pitt team scored more during an eight-game span. That year the Panthers compiled 344 points (43.0 ppg.) during a 7-0-1 stretch that included victories over Temple (76-0), Boston College (45-7), Navy (34-17), Syracuse (28- 21), Tulane (48-0), West Virginia (44-3) and Army (52-26), as well as a 17-17 tie with Florida. The 2016 Panthers are the first team in school history to score at least 36 points in seven consecutive games. That streak began with a 42-39 win over Penn State (Sept. 10) and was snapped in a 51-28 loss at Miami (Nov. 5).

The Panthers feature one of the most potent rushing attacks in the ACC and nationally. Pitt is averaging 220.4 rushing yards per game to rank third in the ACC and 30th in the nation. Running back James Conner’s return has been nothing short of remarkable. During what was nearly year-long absence from the game, Conner defeated Hodgkin lymphoma and rehabilitated a significant knee injury. He currently leads the Panthers in rushing (712 yards on 155 carries) and scoring (80 points). His 13 total touchdowns rank 13th nationally and second among ACC players.

Pitt’s defense: Under Pat Narduzzi, Pitt has displayed an outstanding pass rush. The Panthers rank ninth nationally and third in the ACC with an average of 3.22 sacks per game (29 total). Pitt’s sack yardage of 233 leads the ACC and is tied for the fourth most in the country. For the second consecutive season, Ejuan Price is pacing Pitt’s pass rush and has nine sacks. Price had a team-high 11.5 last year. However, the Panthers struggle in the secondary, ranking last in the ACC and 126 nationally in passing yards allowed at 317.1. They are allowing 428.7 yards and 34.4 points per game, which ranks last in the ACC.

Records: Clemson 9-0, 6-0 ACC; Pitt 5-4, 2-3 ACC

Clemson injury report: Adrian Baker, DB, Knee, out; Jake Fruhmorgen, OT, shoulder, out; Ray Ray McCloud, WR, ankle, can play; Deshaun Watson, QB, shoulder, can play; Denzel Johnson, SS, groin, can play; Cornell Powell, WR, hamstring, can play; Marcus Edmond, CB, toe, can play.

Series record: Pitt leads 1-0

First meeting: Pitt won 34-3 in the 1977 Gator Bowl

Stat worth noting: While this is not the final home game, Clemson seniors will be honored prior to Saturday’s game. The group has had quite a run. Overall, their record of 44-6 and that .880 winning percentage is the best in school history. The 44 wins rank second behind the 46-8 record by the 2015 seniors. They have an ACC regular season record of 27-3. The record for conference wins by a senior class is 28-4 by the 2015 seniors.

This group has a 28-3 record, including the ACC Championship game win over North Carolina last year. The Clemson class record for ACC wins including championship games is 29-4 by the 2015 seniors. So a win on Saturday can tie both records. This senior class has been a part of a 25-1 record at Memorial Stadium the last four years. The record for wins by a senior class at home is 26-2 set by the 2014 and 2015 senior classes.

Second stat worth noting: A victory for Clemson over Pittsburgh will give the Tigers a 10-0 record and assure Clemson of a sixth straight season with at least 10 victories. Clemson would become just the 11th different school in college football history (current FBS schools) to have six consecutive seasons of at least 10 wins. Heading into this season Clemson and Alabama were the only schools with an active streak of at least five 10-win seasons. The Crimson Tide are also primed to extend their streak, which is eight consecutive years entering this season. The record for consecutive 10-win seasons is 14 years in a row set by Bobby Bowden’s Florida State Seminoles (1987-02). The Tigers are looking for their 12th season with at least 10 wins in history. If the Tigers defeat Pittsburgh, Dabo Swinney would have half of those double digit 10-win seasons on his resume.

Third stat worth noting: Clemson junior running back Wayne Gallman has a chance to set a school record and eclipse a major milestone this week. The native of Grayson, Georgia enters the Pittsburgh game with 2,930 career rushing yards and needs just 70 to become the sixth player in Clemson history to reach 3,000 yards in a ca­reer. He also needs just one 100-yard rushing game to establish the Clemson career mark for career 100-yard games. He has 15, the same amount Raymond Priester had for the Tigers between 1994-‘97.

 

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