Pitt has had some difficult games this year. There was the matchup against Penn State in a big rivalry game. They traveled on the road to face Oklahoma State, North Carolina, and Miami. They battled a strong Virginia Tech team at home.
All of that pales in comparison to what the team will face this weekend against Clemson.
Now, the big question is if Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson will play - and if he does, how effective will he be? Watson left the team's last game against Syracuse this weekend with a shoulder injury. Early indications are that he's probably fine since he was available to play in the second half of that game if need be. But with or without him, Pitt still would have their work cut out for them, anyway.
It seems as though the Panthers have had their fair share of tough road contests already but they have one more vs. the Tigers on Saturday in what was announced as a national telecast over the weekend.
Clemson is a perfect 9-0 on the season and their season has been even tougher than the Panthers' in terms of the better teams they've faced. They defeated a now top ten Auburn team in the season opener. A few weeks later, they knocked off No. 3 Louisville. Later, they traveled to Florida State and beat them on the road. The rest of Clemson's schedule has been relatively light, but there's no doubt that they've been tested heavily.
The Tigers boast a Top 25 offense and defense. Throwing for just over 320 yards per game, they excel in the passing game, ranking 13th in the nation. Their running game hasn't been as good, but in averaging nearly 500 yards per contest, they are 24th in the country in total offense.
Even their running game is better than the numbers indicate. They are in the lower half of the country in rushing offense with 168.2 yards per game, but junior running back Wayne Gallman is more than capable. His numbers are down a bit this year but last season, he ran for more than 1,500 yards. He only has 634 this season, but is still averaging more than five yards per game. And if Pitt's defensive line remains banged up, that will make things even tougher. The Panthers have been exceptional against the run this year, but Gallman is still capable of having a big day.
Defensively, they're even better. The Tigers have allowed fewer than 16 points per game, good for eighth in the country. They are better against the pass (11th) but certainly still above average against the run (34th). They're also great in the red zone, holding teams without points about 30% of the time - good for 11th in the country.
So where is Clemson vulnerable, exactly? Hardly anywhere, to be honest. They haven't been great in the running game and could be better in the red zone - they don't come away with points about 20% of the time there, so they've had some mistakes. They're also a team that gets penalized quite a bit, averaging more than six penalties for about 55 yards per game. But essentially, that's it.
It's hard, obviously, to feel too optimistic about Pitt's chances here. The Panthers have pulled off any number of upsets over the years, but have yet to get a huge win under head coach Pat Narduzzi. And playing Clemson on the road here with all of the recent injury woes makes things that much tougher.