Travis Etienne will run down the hill one final time for third-ranked Clemson when the Tigers host Pitt today on Senior Day at Death Valley.
Etienne will leave Death Valley as the greatest to run the football at Clemson. The running back already owns the ACC record for the most rushing yards in a career, as he heads into today’s game with 4,672 career rushing yards.
He also owns the ACC record for most rushing touchdowns (66) and total touchdowns (74) in a career and is one of just a handful of players to earn player of the year honors in back-to-back seasons, something he did in 2018 and 2019.
Etienne earned MVP honors in the 2018 ACC Championship Game when he rushed for 156 yards and scored two touchdowns in the Tigers’ win over Pitt in Charlotte, N.C. With two more regular season games left to play, plus the potential of at least three postseason games, Etienne has the opportunity to eclipse a few more all-time records before his Clemson career is done.
As for today, in his home finale, he can join some select company if the opportunity presents itself.
- Etienne (10) needing three more rushing touchdowns to join Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne as the only players in FBS history to record at least 13 rushing touchdowns in four different seasons.
- Etienne (66) needing one rushing touchdown to pass Florida Atlantic’s Devin Singletary (66) for sole possession of the sixth-most career rushing touchdowns according to official NCAA FBS records.
- Etienne (74) needing two touchdowns of any kind to pass Texas’ Ricky Williams (75) for the fifth-most career total touchdowns of any FBS player since 1956.
- – Etienne (4,672 rushing yards and 1,058 receiving yards) needing 328 more rushing yards to join Donnel Pumphrey as the only players in FBS history to record 5,000 career rushing yards and 1,000 career receiving yards. – Etienne (444) needing six more points to become the 14th player (and sixth non-kicker) in FBS history to reach 450 career points. He would join Florida State kicker Dustin Hopkins (466 from 2009-12) as the only ACC players to accomplish the feat
Who has the edge in today game?
Clemson’s O-Line vs. Pitts’ D-Line: On paper this does not look like a favorable matchup for the Tigers. The Panthers rank fifth nationally against the run, allowing just 87.3 yards per game and 2.45 yards per carry. They also lead the nation in tackles for loss and sacks. Pitt wants to crowd the line of scrimmage and take away the running game. No team has rushed for more than 156 yards on them. Clemson by no means is the same rushing team it has been the last two years. Whether it is due to the fact their opponents have crowd the line of scrimmage and have dared them to throw the ball or they are just not getting it done up front, the Tigers are struggling to run the football on a consistent basis. Clemson is averaging just 150 yards a game on the ground, 11th in the ACC, and are barely averaging 4.0 yards per carry. The Tigers will have a tough time establishing the line of scrimmage in this matchup. Don’t look for a big rushing day from Etienne this afternoon, but Clemson will try to do enough on the ground to keep the Panthers honest.
Kenny Pickett vs. Clemson’s secondary: Like Boston College earlier this year, Pitt does not really want to run the football. The Panthers are averaging just 109.5 yards per game and 3.2 yards per carry. So, they will abandon the running game earlier. However, they are not concerned by that because when quarterback Kenny Pickett is in the lineup, they can sling the ball with the best of them. Pickett is averaging 286.1 yards a game through the air, which ranks third in the ACC. Against Virginia Tech last week, he completed 35-of-52 passes for 404 yards and two touchdowns in leading the Panthers to an easy victory. After being decimated by injuries at Notre Dame its last time out (Nov. 7), Clemson’s secondary should be up for the challenge. The Tigers still lead the ACC in completion percentage defense (48.4 percent) and are second in terms of passing yards allowed (191.8). The Clemson secondary has also produced nine interceptions in eight games thus far.
Trevor Lawrence vs. Pitt’s secondary: As mentioned, Pitt will not allow Clemson to run the football. They want to make Lawrence and the Tigers’ receivers beat them. The Panthers are very stubborn when it comes to pass defense. They play a lot of press man and Cover 1 schemes, so Lawrence will have an opportunity to make plenty of plays in the passing game. The Panthers have allowed a league high 18 touchdown passes this season, though they lead the league with 12 interceptions. Opponents are completing 54.3 percent of their passes for 224.4 yards. Clemson’s passing game is leading the ACC, averaging 353.6 yards per game with 23 touchdown passes to three interceptions as a team. Lawrence, who has not played in a game since Oct. 24, is averaging 305.5 yards per game and has thrown 17 touchdowns to just two interceptions. He is averaging 9.6 yards per attempt.
Bottom Line: After three weeks away, the Tigers finally get back on the football field to play a Pitt team that has won two straight games and is playing with a lot of confidence now that quarterback Kenny Pickett is back from injury. How rusty will the Tigers be? How rusty will Lawrence and his receivers be? It all should make for some interesting drama today in Death Valley.
Prediction: Clemson 34, Pitt 20
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