Clemson used to be a big favorite for winning games at the ACC.
The Tigers won the Conference six years in a row and made it to the college football game in each of those seasons.
But when betting lines appeared on the college football’s Week 8 playlist, the Tigers found themselves in an unusual place: as an underdog. Who exactly? To No. 23 Pete, a team they demolished in 2018 and 2020 in the last two games. The opening streak was favored by the Panthers by three points.
Clemson opened as a three-point underdog in Pittsburgh. I’m not sure I ever wrote those words during a regular season.
– Grace Raynor (@gmraynor) October 17 2021
MORE: AP Top 25, Coach Poll Rankings Updated After Week 7
How long has it been since the Tigers don’t like to win the regular season? And what do the odds makers have that make them think Pete will beat Clemson? lets take alook.
When was the last time Clemson was an underdog in a regular season?
The ACC has been the Clemson Conference for a long time. The Tigers have lost quite a few conference games in the recent past, but no team has been considered a par with Dabo Swinney’s group in a long time.
The last team that was expected to beat Clemson was the Louisville team in 2016. The Cardinal led by Lamar Jackson was pinned as the best two-point team over the Tigers.
To that point of the season (through his first four games in Louisville), Jackson had completed 58.7 percent of his passes for 1,330 yards with 13 touchdowns and three interceptions. He lunged 61 times for 526 yards and 12 more points. He went on to win the Heisman Cup that season.
Louisville had an explosive offense averaging 63.5 points per game in those first four games. This result propelled the Cardinals to third on the AP’s Top 25 list and a favorite over the #5 Tigers. Clemson went on to win the game 42-36.
But even then, the Tigers were expected to lose with less than a field goal. To find the last time they were an underdog by at least three points, you have to go back to 2014. In the third week of that season, No. 22 Clemson went on to face No. 1 Florida State, opening in the 20.5-determining underdog in the Seminoles led by James Winston.
MORE: The 11 best candidates to train for LSU to replace Ed Orgeron, from Jimbo Fisher to Joe Brady
Winston and Florida State were exiting the National Championship and Heisman Cup season. But the streak fell nearly a drop when Winston was suspended for a sexually explicit and profane outburst within the FSU Student Union. He was initially suspended for the first half of the match before increasing the suspension for the whole match, According to ESPN. However, Florida was favored by about two landings.
Clemson took the lead in the fourth quarter but Winston’s replacement, Sean Maguire, scored a late in the game before the Seminoles won at the end of overtime 23-17.
So, if recent history is any indication, the Tigers have at least covered the spread every time they undercut against ACC opponents, even though they are only 1-1 on the money line.
Why is Pete preferred to win?
On the face of it, the line shouldn’t seem so surprising. The home seeded team is favored against the unranked road team. It seems right.
It’s just the names that have more value. Clemson does not usually appear underpowered.
But this is a different house team and a different Clemson team. The Panthers average 48.3 points per game – the third largest in the country – and allow 20 points per game – and are 34th in the nation. They are 5-1, with the only loss coming in Week 3, 44-41 against Western Michigan.
Panthers midfielder Kenny Pickett has quietly upped the Heisman Trophy’s odds. DraftKings Sportsbook now has a +2200 (22-1) number to win the prize. He has 21 passing touchdowns, one interception, 1,934 passing yards and a 69.8 season completion percentage.
MORE: College Football Match Picture for Week 8
Clemson, on the other hand, struggled, particularly in attack. The Tigers average 20.5 points per game in their first season without Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne, who are ranked 113th out of 130 teams in FBS. Defense played its part, keeping teams with only 12.5 points per game – the second best team in FBS. But the Tigers have not defeated a team with a full seven points since their 49-3 loss to South Carolina in Week 2. After they lost that game, Clemson scored just 14.8 points against an FBS competitor.
Pete’s defense hasn’t been impressive, but Clemson hasn’t been able to score points on any major conference team this year. And if Beckett and the Panthers can score three or four times, that may be all they need to win against the onslaught of the hapless Tigers.