A Vikings Fan’s Guide to CFB: Pittsburgh’s ACC Title Defense

December 4, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) holds the championship trophy as head coach Pat Narduzzi looks after winning the ACC Championship game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Just as the NFL season is fast approaching, we are approaching the day when college football teams will arrive on campus and begin their own preseason work. As a self-proclaimed NFL Draft nerd, I’m almost as excited for the college football season as I am for the NFL season. For that reason, I’m preparing guides for many notable college football programs ahead of the 2022 season. Whether you’re a seasoned college football viewer or new to it, there’s something for everyone. We’ve already gone through many of the AAC’s main competitors, and now we’re in the thick of it with the ACC. Today we discuss the defending ACC champions, the Pittsburgh Panthers.

Insight

If there was one Cinderella story from the 2021 college football season, it was definitely the Pittsburgh Panthers. In head coach Pat Narduzzi’s eighth season with the program, Pittsburgh went 11-3, won an ACC title, saw a major bowling game for the first time in 17 years and sent his QB Kenny Pickett on the road when he was selected with the 20th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It’s hard to imagine things getting any better, but this program is aiming high for 2022. They’ve lost star receiver Jordan Addison to USC, but they’re bringing in some talented replacements in Jerrod Means and Konata Mumpfield. Kedon Slovis is looking to follow in Pickett’s footsteps as he trades from USC and is likely the starting QB in 2022. With other teams around the conference reloading to take their crown, this is sure to be a defense of tough title, but the Panthers are equipped to do it.

2022 NFL Draft Prospects

Notable transfers in

  • QB Kedon Slovis (USC)
  • WR Jerrod Means (Louisiana Tech)
  • WR Konata Mumpfield (Akron)

Notable outward transfers

  • WR Jordan Addison (USC)
  • QB Joey Yellen (Hawaii)
  • QB Davis Beville (Oklahoma)
  • LB Cam Bright (Washington)
  • EDGE Naquan Brown (Norfolk State)

Calendar 2022

  • 9/1 vs. West Virginia
  • 9/10 vs. Tennessee
  • 9/17 @ West Michigan
  • 9/24 vs. Rhode Island
  • 10/1 vs. Georgia Tech
  • 10/8 vs. Virginia Tech
  • 10/22 @ Louisville
  • 10/29 @ UNC
  • 11/5 v Syracuse
  • 11/12 @ Virginia
  • 11/19 vs. Duke
  • 11/26 @Miami

The keys to 2022

Kedon Slovis replaces Kenny Pickett

Before the start of the 2021 season, Kedon Slovis looked like a prospect who could be selected in the final rounds of the 2022 draft. Yet, since his 2019 first season with the Trojans, the redshirt junior has not found the same success n did not find the same success. He’s thrown for just 2,153 yards and 11 touchdowns over nine games in 2021. There’s no doubt the talent is there, though, and a change of scenery might be just what he needs.

Slovis joins a Pittsburgh attack where he will have a number of guns to go. Leading receiver Jared Wayne will need to take another step up from the 658 yards and six touchdowns he recorded in 2021. All five starters along the offensive line are also returning and should once again provide excellent pass protection.

The defense must remain productive

The Pittsburgh Panthers are bringing back six All-ACC defensemen to their starting lineup in 2022 after a terrific 2021 season that saw that unit allow just 24 points per game. Not only were they stingy on points allowed, but they did a terrific job of assisting their offense, recording five defensive touchdowns.

Especially as Slovis (or whoever is Pittsburgh’s starting QB) gets used to the system, that defense will remain incredibly important to Pittsburgh’s continued success in 2022. They start the season with five of their first six games at home, it is therefore an excellent opportunity to get off to a good start.

My “purple reader to watch”

The Minnesota Vikings’ receiving squad is one of the deepest in the NFL right now, but perhaps it’s best to start preparing for life after Adam Thielen. The 32-year-old future receiver has missed games in each of the past three years after dressing for every game in his first five seasons.

His ability to make an impact in the red zone should be felt this year, but Minnesota needs to find someone to take over that role in the future. The Vikings turned to the Pittsburgh Panthers program in recent years in the NFL Draft, so it wouldn’t be too surprising for them to keep tabs on a potential wide receiver. Look no further than senior receiver Jared Wayne as a potential 2023 Vikings receiver.

As previously reported, Wayne will take on a much bigger role in Pittsburgh’s offense this year now that Jordan Allison is a USC Trojan. Throughout his college career, Wayne has shown his ability to win at all levels of the field, and he should be a second-day draft pick when April rolls around. A duo of Justin Jefferson and Wayne could prove extremely amusing in Minnesota.

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