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

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

Just like the NFL season is fast approaching, we are nearing the day where college football teams will arrive on campus and begin their own preseason work. As a self-proclaimed NFL Draft nerd, I get almost as excited for the college football season as I do for the NFL season. Because of that, I am putting together guides for many of the notable college football programs ahead of the 2022 season. Whether you’re a seasoned college football viewer, or just getting into it for the first time, there is something here for everyone. We’ve already gone through many of the major contenders in the AAC, and now we are in the thick of it with the ACC. Today, we discuss the ACC’s reigning champs, the Pittsburgh Panthers.

Overview

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

It’s hard to imagine things getting much better than that, but this program has its sights set high for 2022. They lost star wide receiver Jordan Addison to USC, but they bring in a couple talented replacements in Jerrod Means and Konata Mumpfield. Kedon Slovis looks to follow in Pickett’s footsteps as well as he transfers in from USC and is the likely starting QB in 2022. With other teams around the conference reloading in order to take their crown, it will certainly be a difficult title defense, but the Panthers are equipped to get it done.

2022 NFL Draft Prospects

Notable Transfers In

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

Notable Transfers Out

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

2022 Schedule

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

Keys to 2022

Kedon Slovis Replacing Kenny Pickett

Prior to the start of the 2021 season, Kedon Slovis looked like a prospect who could be selected in the later rounds of the 2022 draft. However, since his freshman season of 2019 with the Trojans, the redshirt junior has not found the same success has not found the same success. He threw for just 2153 yards and 11 TDs over the course of nine games in 2021. There’s no question the talent is there, though, and a change of scenery could be just what he needs.

Slovis joins a Pittsburgh offense where he will have a number of weapons to pass to. Senior receiver Jared Wayne will have to take another step up from the 658 yards and six touchdowns he recorded in 2021. All five starters along the offensive line return as well and should provide terrific pass protection once again.

The Defense Must Stay Productive

The Pittsburgh Panthers return six All-ACC defenders to their starting lineup in 2022 after a terrific 2021 season that saw this unit allow just 24 points per game. Not only were they stingy in points allowed, but they did a terrific job at helping their offense out, recording five defensive touchdowns.

Especially as Slovis (or whoever is the starting QB for Pittsburgh) gets used to the system, this defense will remain incredibly important for Pittsburgh’s continued success in 2022. They begin the season with five of their first six games at home, so this is a great opportunity to jump off to a hot start.

My “Purple Player to Watch”

The Minnesota Vikings receiving group is one of the deepest in the NFL right now, but it may be best to begin preparing for life after Adam Thielen. The soon-to-be 32-year-old receiver has missed games in each of the last three years after suiting up for every game during 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 have looked to the Pittsburgh Panthers program in recent years during the NFL Draft, so it wouldn’t be too surprising for them to keep an eye on a potential wide receiver prospect. Look no further than senior receiver Jared Wayne as a potential 2023 Vikings receiver.

As stated earlier, Wayne will take over a much larger role in Pittsburgh’s offense this year now that Jordan Allison is a USC Trojan. Throughout his collegiate career, Wayne has shown capabilities of winning at all levels of the field, and he should be a Day Two draft pick when April rolls around. A duo of Justin Jefferson and Wayne could prove to be extremely fun in Minnesota.