Notre Dame (7-1) vs. Pitt (6-2) 12:00 pm
Since 2010, Notre Dame is 3-1 against Pittsburgh and have won those games by an average of 4 points per game. Pittsburgh won in 2013 in South Bend 28-21. Both teams did not play each other last season. This will be back to road games to the state of Pennsylvania for the Fighting Irish.
Notre Dame is coming off a hard fought 24-20 victory over the Temple Owls on Saturday in Philadelphia. Notre Dame is averaging 36.5 points per game and has a very balanced offensive attack that is rushing for 226 yards per game along with passing for 268 yards per game. Quarterback DeShone Kizer is completing 65.1% of his passes for 1,669 yards with 11 touchdowns and 6 interceptions and made plays down the stretch when his team needed him to. Kizer also broke free on a big touchdown run last week against the Owls and showed the ability to make plays with his legs. Kizer’s mobility will be a factor this weekend against the Pittsburgh defense. In Pitt’s last game against North Carolina, the unit struggled with the mobility of Tar Heel quarterback Marquise Williams and look for Notre Dame to run Kizer on read options on the edge of the defense Saturday afternoon. Running back C.J Prosise is leading the team with 947 rushing yards averaging 6.6 yards per carry with 11 touchdowns. Prosise will be counted on to pound the football between the tackles for the Irish and allow Kizer to work off of play action if the running game has early success. Notre Dame will want to create mismatches on the perimeter and utilize wide receiver William Fuller’s big play ability against the Pitt defensive backs. Fuller leads the team with 37 receptions for 748 yards with 9 touchdowns. Teammate Chris Brown is second on the team with 33 receptions for 427 yards and 2 touchdowns. Notre Dame will look to push the football against the Panthers defense and utilize an up-tempo attack to war them down. North Carolina had a solid game plan against the Panthers and look for the Fighting Irish to jump out early to put the pressure on the Panthers offensive to play catch up.
The Notre Dame defense is allowing 22.3 points per game and made a key stop last week on the road. The unit is yielding 167 rushing yards per game and is solid against the pass giving up 187 passing yards per game. Notre Dame has struggled getting a pass rush this season (13 sacks through 8 games) and will need to put pressure on Pittsburgh quarterback Nate Peterman. Linebacker Jaylon Smith is excellent at the point of attack and leads the team with 66 total tackles. Notre Dame will try and force third down and long situations which the unit has excelled in this season. On the year, the Fighting Irish have allowed their opponents to convert 28% of the time on third downs. Notre Dame must do a better job in winning the turnover battle and will need to create turnovers on the road. This season the team I s-1 in turnover margin and -3 on the road or on a neutral field site.
The Panthers are scoring 26.1 points per game and are struggling to stretch defenses vertically with their offense. The Panthers rely on a ball control attack that likes to run the football and work off of play action with quarterback Nate Peterman. On the season, Pittsburgh is averaging 169 yards per game on the ground and 195 passing yards through the air. Peterman has completed 67.4% of his passes for 1,373 yards with 10 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Running backs Chris James and Qadree Wilson will be the key for the offense to have success against the Notre Dame defensive front seven. Wilson leads the team with 716 yards averaging 5.6 yards per carry with 8 touchdowns while James is second on the team with 229 yards averaging 4.8 yards per carry. Pittsburgh must be able to score first to allow the Panthers to dictate the tempo of this game. The offense is not built to be explosive and likes to methodically work down the field utilizing the short to intermediate passing game. Wide receiver Tyler Boyd is the big play weapon that Pittsburgh will look turn to in order to stretch the Irish secondary. Boyd is rare combination of speed and size with some of the best hands in college football. Boyd catches the football at its highest point and runs precise routes to get open in opposing secondaries. Boyd leads the team with 63 receptions for 578 yards with 4 touchdowns. A weakness of the offense is the Panthers offensive line that is allowing 21 sacks on the season.
Pittsburgh has a blue collar defense that is allowing 138 rushing yards per game and surrendering 22.1 points per game to their opponents. The Panthers are allowing 186 passing yards per game but were exploited last week by a speedy group of Tar Heel wide receivers in the team’s loss at home. Linebacker Matt Galambas leads the team with 4 sacks and is a smart football player that is always around the football. Pittsburgh has recorded 22 sacks as a unit and will look to be aggressive to create mistakes by the Notre Dame offense on Saturday. Look for Pittsburgh to play aggressive early on to force Kizer to read coverage and throw over the top of the defense. Pittsburgh could not afford to play zone against Notre Dame which will allow Fuller and company to find holes over the middle of the defense. Head coach Pat Narduzzi will have his team ready and the Panthers will look to be very opportunistic playing at home. Pittsburgh is +1 in turnover margin but has struggled at home with a -5 margin.
Listen to Joe’s show on Yahoo Sports Radio every Saturday morning from 10-11am EST at www.streamysr.com.
Joseph Lisi a former ABC Sports college football researcher, is the owner of www.GOFORTHE2.COM. He is a member if the FWAA (Football Writers Association Of America),Maxwell Football Club and is currently the content editor atwww.2FiveSports.com.He contributes regularly to www.Sid-Rosenberg.com and has been a featured guest every Tuesday night from 10:30-11:30pm EST on Yahoo Sports Radio With Ken Thomson(www.sportsxradio.com).
Joe has been featured on the FNTSY Sports Network and The Sid Rosenberg Sports Radio Show 640AM Sports (South Florida). You can follow him on Twitter: @Goforthe2.
Joe has a weekly radio show on www.blogtalkradio.com with former Georgia Bulldogs WR Corey Allen called: