No. 15 Pittsburgh and No. 16 Wake Forest have each experienced high marks of success this season with 10-win campaigns in the regular season and outright division titles. However, the final step can sometimes be the toughest as both teams battle for the ACC Championship on Saturday night in Charlotte. This will mark the second-ever ACC Championship Game appearance for both teams, with Pitt making the title game in 2018 before losing to eventual national champion Clemson, and Wake Forest making its first return since winning the conference championship in 2006.
Taking center stage in this game will be two quarterbacks that not only led the way in the ACC, but rank among the most prolific in the nation. Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett is in the mix for the Heisman Trophy heading into championship weekend and Wake Forest’s Sam Hartman would have been in the mix for first-team All-ACC quarterback if not for the presence of the Pickett in the same league. The oddsmakers are clearly expecting plenty of offense with an total set above 70, and the results from both teams suggest that a back-and-forth decided in the 30’s or 40’s would be in line with their 2021 seasons.
So while neither team enters Saturday night with a real shot at the College Football Playoff, a conference championship and a spot in the New Year’s Six provide plenty of intrigue going into this matchup.
Pittsburgh vs. Wake Forest: Need to know
Award season sweep for both teams: Pickett is in the running for the Heisman Trophy, but he’s already claimed a number of prestigious honors at the conference level, including All-ACC first team, Offensive Player of the Year and Player of the Year. Pitt as a team led all schools with 12 All-ACC selections when the conference did its end-of-year honors, with wide receiver Jordan Addison and defensive tackle Calijah Kancey also getting first-team honors. Wake Forest. had its own strong representation that included Sam Hartman earning second-team honors at the quarterback position and most notably saw Dave Clawson win ACC Coach of the Year.
Recipe for a shootout takes more than QBs: These are two of the top-11 passing offenses in the country, but the reason so many are expecting fireworks is because of the performances of both defenses as well. Pitt ranks outside the top 100 nationally in passing defense and Wake Forest ranks outside the top 100 nationally in rushing defense. Even taking all things into consideration for total defense in terms of yards per play, neither team is in the top 40. Pat Narduzzi is known for having NFL-bound defensive backs and coaching up strong secondaries, but the shootout style of the Panthers game — due, like Wake Forest, in part to how quickly and prolifically the offense can score — has really tested the defense’s ability to hold up against explosive plays for four quarters.
A unique ACC champion will be crowned: No matter which team wins on Saturday night, it will be the first non-Clemson, non-Florida State ACC football champion since 2010. This marks the first time that the ACC Championship Game has not included Clemson or Florida State since Virginia Tech beat Boston College in 2008. First held in 2005, the ACC title has a relatively short history, but it’s one that’s been dominated by powers that aren’t in attendance here in 2021. In this season that’s been of surprises all across college football, the ACC has played its part as well with a unique title game here at the end.
How to watch Pittsburgh vs. Wake Forest live
Date: Saturday, Dec. 4 | Time: 8 p.m. ET
Location: Bank of America Stadium — Charlotte, North Carolina
TV: ABC | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Pittsburgh vs. Wake Forest prediction, picks
Featured Game | Wake Forest Demon Deacons vs. Pittsburgh Panthers
The sensible pick is Pitt, because Kenny Pickett has the edge at quarterback and the Panthers have been better, when needed, on the defensive of the ball. But there’s something special to the wild ride that the Demon Deacons have been on here in 2021 that I think better prepares them for a tense, high-scoring shootout. Prediction: Wake Forest (+3)
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