Pittsburgh has won its last two games after a difficult October where it lost its quarterback and four games. Since Kenney Picket’s return the Panthers rolled Florida State and Virginia Tech in consecutive games.
Third-ranked Clemson will not have played in 21 days when it takes the field at Death Valley on Saturday after an open date and a last-minute postponement by Florida State.
Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables knows the Panthers present a unique challenge despite their record.
“They have a lot of juniors and seniors on their football team,” Venables said. “They have lost two one-point games and the other two the quarterback was out. They have an excellent football team, know what they are doing and have an established culture on both sides of the ball.”
Pittsburgh (5-4, 4-4 ACC) leads the nation in tackles for loss (97), tackles for loss per game (10.8) and sacks (40).
On the offensive side of the ball it is led by Pickett, the senior missed the Miami and Notre Dame losses, but has completed 63.3-percent of his passes for 2,003 yards and 10 touchdowns with another five touchdowns on the ground.
Venables knows containing Pickett is no easy task and will take an outstanding effort by the Clemson defense.
“Kenny Pickett is playing extremely well. He is super-efficient, makes the right decisions, he is an excellent athlete and can run around,” Venables said. “He plays with great poise and throws the ball with great accuracy.”
Clemson (7-1, 6-1 ACC) faced Pickett in the 2018 ACC Championship Game and held him to eight yards passing, intercepted a pass and sacked the freshman three times. But Venables acknowledged the impressive development by the Pittsburgh staff and the growth of Pickett in the last three years.
“Kenny is a great example of what development looks like,” Venables said. “I saw him as a freshman in the ACC championship and he is different and not even close to the same player now and they were the Coastal Division champions so it will be a great challenge for us without question.”
Clemson plays host to the Panthers in its final home game of the season at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.