ACC Championship Betting Guide: Our Staff Makes Their Picks for Pitt vs. Wake Forest
Justin Berl and Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images. Pictured from left: Habakkuk Baldonado (87) of the Pittsburgh Panthers and Jaquarii Roberson (5) of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.
Pitt vs. Wake Forest Odds
-110o / -110u
|Wake Forest Odds|
-110o / -110u
Pitt vs. Wake Forest
By Shawn Burns
For the first time since 2014, we will have a new ACC champion. Clemson has dominated the conference of late, but Wake Forest won the Atlantic Division and Pittsburgh won the Coastal Division, setting up an unexpected matchup.
The Panthers joined the ACC in 2013, but this will only be the second time these programs have played and the first since the 2018 season.
Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi is a defensive-minded coach, but the Panthers have one of the top offenses and quarterbacks in the country. Senior quarterback Kenny Pickett is a Heisman candidate and has the potential to be a first-round pick in the NFL draft.
Since losing to Western Michigan, the Panthers have won eight of their last nine games and eying a New Year’s Six bowl berth and their first ever ACC championship.
Wake Forest fans couldn’t have asked for more last week. First, the university locked in head coach Dave Clawson to a long-term deal, and then the Demon Deacons clinched a berth in the ACC title game with a win over Boston College.
Wake Forest is hoping for their first conference championship since 2006 and they will lean on an offense that hasn’t disappointed this season. Quarterback Sam Hartman is an elite talent and has the weapons on the perimeter to wreak havoc on opposing defenses.
Pitt vs. Wake Forest Spread
Wake Forest +3.5
Our Action Network college football staff is nearly split on the ACC Championship game, with six writers taking Wake Forest +3 and five laying the field goal with Pitt. However, I am riding with the Panthers.
My guess is a lot of the people backing Wake Forest is due to the reports of the flu passing through the Pitt team. Pickett missed practice early in the week but returned to the field on Wednesday, saying he feels better and will be good to go.
The worst unit on the field Saturday is clearly the Wake Forest defense. The Demon Deacons rank 105th in the country in Success Rate on defense, 101st in EPA per play and 115th at preventing big plays.
Pittsburgh’s defense, meanwhile, is 33rd in Success Rate on defense and is 16th in EPA per play. The Panthers’ front seven creates a ton of Havoc and is terrific against the run.
Wake Forest has been able to outscore its opponents thanks to a fantastic offense, but the Pitt offense has also been elite. As good as the Deacons offense is, they rank 38th in Success Rate and 16th in EPA per play. Well, Pitt has been even better sitting 16th in Success Rate and sixth in EPA per play.
The Panthers are fourth in the country putting up 512.8 yards per game, led by Pickett, who has played himself into a possible trip to New York for the Heisman ceremony.
The fifth-year senior tossed 40 touchdowns, the second most in the country, and just seven interceptions during the regular season. He has a 92.4 passer grade at Pro Football Focus, the second best among all quarterbacks.
Receiver Jordan Addison is a Biletnikoff Award finalist, leading the country with 17 touchdown catches and racking up 112.8 yards per game. He averages over 15.9 yards per catch and should have no problem getting behind this Wake Forest defense.
Wake Forest had what is probably the best season in program history, but it has played with fire a little bit due to the defensive struggles. The Deacs beat Louisville, Syracuse and NC State each by just three points and lost two of their last four games.
Pitt beat the two teams Wake Forest lost to and has won eight of its last nine games, all by at least 10 points. Historically, Narduzzi and Pitt have struggled as a large favorite, but they have been terrific when laying less than a touchdown.
When they are a favorite of six points or less, Pitt is 13-3-2 against the spread under Narduzzi. They have been the better offense, the better defense, and come into this game playing better down the stretch. In what could be the most fun game of the weekend, I’ll take the Panthers and see yinz at the pay window n’at.
Pitt vs. Wake Forest Over/Under
By Doug Ziefel
These are two of the top five offenses in the country, with Wake Forest ranking second and Pitt coming in at fifth. Both teams are averaging at least 40 points per game, and it is no secret as to why. Two of the best quarterbacks in all of college football are going to go toe to toe in this one.
Let’s start with Pickett. The senior has put together an outstanding season as he is fifth in the country in passing yards and second in passing touchdowns. He has also used this season to etch his name all over the Pitt record book. Since we are talking about Pitt here, I’m going to say it, he may be a second coming of Dan Marino.
Though let’s forget all the hyperbole and focus on the matchup. Pickett and the Panthers are facing a Wake Forest defense that can certainly be beat through the air. The Deacons are 65th in yards per pass allowed and we may need to be reminded of how they gave up 56 points to Army. That performance was also due in part to the fact the Wake Forest defense is even poorer against the run. They are 113th in opponent’s yards per rush and allow 216 yards per game on the ground. The Panthers only run 45 %of the time, but that option will be there all day long.
Sam Hartman might be the next best thing after Pickett. Hartman has had a prolific season passing the ball as he ranks ninth in both passing yards and passing touchdowns. He now gets to face a very vulnerable Pitt secondary that ranks 119th in passing yards allowed per game and is 81st in opponent completion percentage.
The fans are not the only ones who are going to be hoping to see these two quarterbacks light up the scoreboard. We here at the Action Network have come to the agreement that the over in this matchup is the right side.
Staff Pick: Over 71
Pitt vs. Wake Forest Player Props
Jaquarii Roberson Over 73.5 Receiving Yards
Wake Forest’s offense ranks fifth in expected points added (EPA) per pass, and that’s largely due to an extremely productive receiver duo of AT Perry and Roberson, both of whom surpassed the 1,000-yard mark this season.
Roberson sees a 24% share of the team’s total passing targets and leads the Demon Deacons with 64 receptions. He’s earned an 84.9 Pro Football Focus receiving grade this season, which ranks second in the ACC, with a per-game average of 5.2 catches and 85.3 yards.
Pitt has been great against the run, but the same can’t be said for a pass defense that ranks 98th in passing success rate allowed. Roberson sees nearly 80% of his snaps from the slot, and that has been a position that Pitt has struggled to defend. The Panthers have surrendered the second-most receptions in the country to the slot position this year, per PFF, and its 55.3% success rate allowed on slot targets ranks 113th.
There should be plenty of points scored on both sides of the ball in this contest, and Roberson is in good position to exploit a major weakness in the Pitt secondary.
I completely agree with Darin about the Roberson over.
To add on, he should be matched up with free safety Eric Hallett in man coverage most of the game. Hallett had 342 snaps in the slot this season, which are the third most in the country. The results were not kind. Of the 175 corners who took at least 75 snaps, Hallett was one of eight to allow more than two yards per snap. He’s allowed 53 catches and 696 yards in the slot, which are both the most in FBS.
Quarterbacks have a 103 QB Rating when targeting Hallett. And he has faced plenty of putrid passing offenses: UMass, New Hampshire, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Syracuse. For what it’s worth, Roberson has taken 467 of his 588 snaps in the slot.
I truly believe this Pitt secondary is vastly overrated after losing three high-caliber players. Any explosive passing attack they faced in non-weather games absolutely roasted them. Sam Hartman can do the same on Saturday and Roberson should cook from the slot all day.