#5 Notre Dame @ Pitt ’15: Key Matchups

Keivarae Russell - Notre Dame CB
Photo: Kirby Lee // USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame will face its second road test in as many weeks when they travel to Heinz Field to take on the 6-2 Pitt Panthers. The Irish are more than a touchdown favorite over Pitt, but the teams have a history of playing close games that are decided late in the fourth quarter or overtime. Notre Dame will need to be ready for Pitt’s trademark running attack and physical defense as well as a rare noon kickoff. The following are the matchups the Irish must win to keep their playoff hopes alive:

KeiVarae Russell versus Tyler Boyd

Irish cornerback KeiVarae Russell has elevated his play over recent weeks and will need to continue that versus Tyler Boyd. Boyd does a bit of everything for the Pitt offense. He has 47 more receptions than any other Panther, has carried the ball 17 times and is also 2-2 as a passer, which the Irish will need to be aware of with their tendency to give up yards on trick plays. Russell will need to be locked in as the ball is going to be thrown to Boyd regardless of how good the coverage is, as he is one of the few playmakers Pitt has with James Connor out for the season.

Jaylon Smith versus Qadree Ollison

Stud linebacker Jaylon Smith will look to continue to make his case for the Butkus Award versus Qadree Ollison and Pitt. The Panthers have a commitment to the run and Ollison leads the team with 716 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. Smith will need to be prepared to constantly fight off lead blockers to close gaps and limit the success the Panthers have on first and second down runs. If Smith can contain Ollison to below 100 yards it bodes well for the Irish.

Will Fuller versus Jordan Whitehead

Irish receiver Will Fuller will once again be a focal-point for the opposing defense, this time being the focus of Jordan Whitehead. Whitehead will be a part of the double teams that Fuller will likely see all day and he leads the team with 62 tackles to go along with two pass breakups as a true-freshman. Fuller should have the speed to make plays downfield for the Irish as well as in the screen game when he sees open field.

DeShone Kizer versus Matt Galambos

Quarterback DeShone Kizer will likely see a lot of Matt Galambos on Saturday afternoon. Pitt will likely commit to shutting down C.J. Prosise, which will make Kizer’s zone read and quarterback run game important. Galambos will be reading Kizer from his linebacker spot and has the ability to be disruptive with 8 tackles for loss and a team-high four sacks. Kizer will also need to be sharp and avoid throwing the ball up for grabs as Galambos has two interceptions on the season.

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  1. Burgundy , thank you. Boston U is Hockey. I’m still cloudy from 15 ‘ slap shot to head from my brother on frozen pond back of house. Go Irish beat Pitt , BOSTON COLLEGE , Wake Forest and Stanford–in football.

  2. So Pitt is going to be physical, commit to stopping the run, AND double team Fuller? How does that work exactly? If they stack the box with 8 and double team Fuller, there should be 2 completely open TE/WRs. Oh, and Narduzzi likes to blitz a lot too. Sounds incredible.

  3. Nice article O’Leary on match ups and Duranko’s usual good stuff on opponents history. Great opportunity for Irish after that CFP Committee ranking at #5—to take this new found uplift to better heights. No doubt , this #5 ranking is shot to adrenalin of ND players/coaches and fan base—-that this team is one of best 5 in the country. Not # 8 , 9 , 10 or 11th–but ranked #5. This is some serious s*** now. Let’s go Irish 2015 squad—step up more than you ever had in your football life in final games versus Pitt , Boston U , Wake Forest and Stanford. Outside help—need LSU to beat one loss Alabama. Get Crimson Tide out now.

  4. I heard some pr crazy fool from ESPN call Kelly a racist. If you have ever been a domer you know that such a thing does not exist at nd. God country nd.

    We support Brian Kelly. Go Irish.

  5. nd control its own destiny;win out your in the playoff,play like you did against temple-you will loose.[Pitt is the team if you don’t take care of business early,then Stanford will be the play-in game!

  6. another match-up could be ND Offense vs. 8 in the box

    I’d like to see the Irish do some different things to defeat it. Quick screens, bubble screens, speed option among them.

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