Notre Dame Game Primer: Irish Host Pitt Panthers

The Fighting Irish are back in action against long-time foe Pittsburgh. After back to back wins against top 25 teams, including a beatdown at Lane Stadium, the Irish are up to #5 in this week’s AP Poll. Coming to South Bend this weekend is a familiar opponent, the Pittsburgh Panthers. Just before the bye week, the Irish will look to get one step closer to the playoffs as Pittsburgh always gives Notre Dame their best shot.

Essential Game Info:

  • Game Time: October 13th at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC
  • Location: Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Indiana
  • Matchup: Notre Dame is 48-21-1 all-time against the Pittsburgh Panthers (the last meeting was 2015 at Heinz Field; Notre Dame won 42 to 30)
  • Current Odds: Notre Dame -21.0
  • GameDay Events: The Pep Rally will take place Friday at 6:00 p.m. at Compton Family Ice Arena. For more Weekend Events visit

South Bend Weather Forecast

The current forecast for GameDay shows a 20% chance of rain with a high of 53 degrees and a low of 45. Below is a look at the next 5 days leading up to the game (this will automatically update to be the most recent 5 days throughout the week).


Pittsburgh Details:

  • Conference: ACC (Coastal Division)
  • Head Coach: Pat Narduzzi
  • 2018 Record: 3-3
  • 2017 Record: 5-7

Pittsburgh Storylines:

Familiar Opponent. The Pittsburgh Panthers have clashed with the Fighting Irish 70 times. Pittsburgh is a traditional Notre Dame adversary, and now that the Irish have joined the ACC for 5 games each season, Irish and Panther fans will get to see this game played every few years.

Although Pittsburgh hasn’t been ranked consistently this past decade, they always give the Irish a tough game. Perhaps none more memorable than the 2012 overtime thriller in South Bend, when the Panthers missed a game winning field goal to knock Notre Dame out of their National Championship Game run. If not for a bad snap (and a missed penalty for Notre Dame have two #2’s on the field on the FG attempt), the Irish would’ve lost to Pittsburgh and Head Coach at that time Paul Chryst.

Players to Watch Saturday. The Panthers are led by quarterback Kenny Pickett. The 6-2 sophomore quarterback has a 61.3% completion percentage with 880 yards passing, 6 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions. On the ground Pickett has attempted 48 rushes for 82 yards and 2 rushing touchdowns.

Running Attack is key for Pittsburgh. The main two ball carriers are Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall. Ollison is leading the Panthers with 596 rushing yards, 6.5 yards per carry, and 5 touchdowns. Hall has 48 attempts for 314 yards, 6.5 yards per carry, and 4 rushing touchdowns. The running game is vital to the Pitt Panthers. Ollison is averaging almost 100 yards per game, and Hall is over 50 yards per game as the backup.

The Panthers have a variety of options in the passing game. Four players already have over a dozen receptions on the season. Maurice Ffrench is leading the team with 16 receptions and adding 204 receiving yards with 2 touchdowns. Taysir Mack has the most total yards at 265 receiving yards on 12 receptions. Rafael Araujo-Lopes has the most receiving touchdowns with 3 on the season.

Notre Dame Storylines:

Irish roll past Hokies at Lane Stadium. Notre Dame finally conquered their road woes in dramatic fashion last Saturday Night. Not only did they win, they demolished the Hokies in the second half and went on to win by 22 points. The crazy thing is, Notre Dame didn’t even play their best and missed several opportunities to score even more touchdowns. A testament to how talented this team has become.

The Panthers are standing in the way of a 7-0 start. This weekend is most certainly a trap game for Notre Dame. Coming off two of the biggest wins under Brian Kelly, and before a much-needed bye week, is the familiar Pittsburgh Panthers. Just 3 seasons ago a 5-4 Pittsburgh team went on the road to Clemson, South Carolina and upset the Clemson Tigers. A Clemson team that ended up winning a national title.

After almost a decade at Notre Dame, Brian Kelly has been here before and will have the Irish prepared. Using the Ball State and Vanderbilt games as evidence, I expect Coach Kelly to have the Irish prepared before the bye week and final 5 games proceeding the Pittsburgh matchup.

Injury Updates. The Fighting Irish pass rush didn’t slow down last weekend with the injury to Daelin Hayes earlier in the week, and the targeting call to Okwara (who will be eligible in the first half this week). It appears Hayes will likely rest again this week and use these next two weeks as recovery period.

As Notre Dame prepares for the second-half of the season, Dexter Williams could use some support (even though he has only played 2 full-games). Last weekend Tony Jones Jr. only carried the ball 2 times and Avery Davis once. Jones Jr. is still not 100% but will likely get a few more reps this week. Jafar Armstrong is still injured but will hopefully be back for Navy in a few weeks.

Most Complete Team of Brian Kelly era? Yes, the 2012 Notre Dame Football team was a great football team, but they were in no regards a dominate team; barely winning most of their games. And then there was the National Championship game disaster.  The Notre Dame Defense was one of the best units in the country, but the offense was average at best.

This year’s Notre Dame team is the most complete team of the Brian Kelly Era, even with losses to Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, Alex Bars, and Shaun Crawford. The Irish barely beat Ball State and Vanderbilt, but that was before Ian Book took over. Over the course of these last 3 weeks the Irish have dominated Wake Forest, Stanford, and Virginia Tech on both sides of the ball. It’s clear that the biggest opponent Notre Dame has remaining the rest of the year is themselves.

Head to Head Matchups:

Notre Dame Offense vs. Pittsburgh Defense: The Panther defense has given up 45 points to UCF, 37 points to Syracuse, and 51 points to Penn State. Notre Dame has the distinct advantage in this category. The Irish can run the football and pass the football extremely well. Their only weakness at this point is the long ball. Ian Book has been inconsistent on the deep balls, but then again that is just nit-picking.

Advantage Notre Dame

Pittsburgh Offense vs. Notre Dame Defense: The Pittsburgh offense is centered on running the football. Qadree Ollison is averaging almost 100 yards per game at 6.5 yards per carry. Darrin Hall, the backup, is also averaging 6.5 yards per carry. Their starting quarterback, Kenny Pickett, also has 48 rushing attempts to add to the attack.

If the Irish can stop the running attack and force Pickett to pass through the air, it will be a long game for the Panthers. This Irish defense is one of the best in the country. From the defensive line, to linebackers, and emerging secondary, Notre Dame has the clear advantage.

Advantage Notre Dame

Special Teams: Justin Yoon became Notre Dame’s all-time leading scorer last weekend and has done a solid job for the Irish. His counterpart Alex Kessman is 4 of 5 on the year. The Pitt Panthers punter, Kirk Christodoulou, has punted 31 times for 38.8-yard average. While Tyler Newsome has punted the football 26 times and averaged 46.3 yards per punt.

I will give the advantage to the Irish, they are averaging 7.5 more yards per punt than the Panthers.

Advantage Notre Dame

My Prediction

Notre Dame is halfway through their 12-game schedule with a 6-0 record. As for now, there are no remaining ranked teams on the Irish Schedule. It’s not only impressive what Notre Dame accomplished these past two weeks, but how dominating they looked doing it. Many experts and people across the country that once doubted the Irish are giving them praise.

It will be important for the Irish to quiet the noise and focus on this Pittsburgh game. The Panthers are coming off an overtime win to Syracuse, and always give the Irish a tough challenge. This matchup will be played in South Bend which helps Notre Dame refocus and avoid the trap game.

I believe the Irish will work a little more on the deep passing attack this week, since they missed several opportunities last weekend. I have Notre Dame winning this game by 28 points. I think the backups will see action in the second half, and don’t expect the Irish to try and run up the score if they are put in that position.

Prediction: Notre Dame 45 Pittsburgh 17

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  1. I hate it when the Irish are favored by so many points because in the past, several times, they never even covered the spread. However, they didn’t have this team in the past so maybe Saturday they walk away with a huge score…lets hope so!

  2. Mike, I don’t think critiquing Book’s long throws is nitpicking. Aside from the wasted opportunity with great downfield talent that should at least have a chance to make a catch, an incomplete pass is a wasted down and leaves but two downs to make ten yards. That said, I expect Book’s first throw, in fact the first play, to be a long toss to Boykin or Finke.

    Everyone is well aware of the trap. Kelly coached the 2012 team, of course, and will hone in on this. Pitt was an 18.5 dog coming here that year and a 21 point dog this year. Though a weak defense, Pitt’s offense has hummed. Beating Syracuse last week puts the exclamation point on that thought. An afternoon game at home is the perfect setting for a great offensive effort that will nullify whatever attack Pitt can mount.

  3. Do any of you think Braden Lenzy may play some on Saturday if nd gets up big on Pitt.I remember reading he can really fly track speed fast.I remember Kelly saying a few weeks back that Notredame had receivers who can get open deep.I have seen this but do we have receivers like the top 6 or 7 teams that a guy can catch a short slant pass and go 93 yards like that freshman from Penn state did against Ohio state.

  4. Preseason we had some posters on this site predicting 8-4 this year…to which I said that I can’t find four teams on our schedule who can score the 24-28 points against our defense that is needed to beat us…we’re halfway through the season, and I still can’t find those four teams…but with Book and Williams starting, it looks like our opponents now need to score 34-38 points against our defense to beat us. I’m very tempted to say NOBODY left on our schedule can do that – but I’ve seen way too much college football to say that nobody can sink the Titanic! As you put it Pete – “anything can happen” – I think that’s why we love college football so much. But the odds of us going undefeated for the rest of this year are now great, not small. I think we will win over all.

    BGC ’77 ’82

    1. First one to admit I didn’t see this coming!! I stated early on I thought the IRISH would struggle losing MCGLINCHY, NELSON, ADAMS and sticking with WIMBUSH! I thought all along BOOK was the better option but didn’t think he was this good!! Williams has been the made this offense DANGEROUS! Every game now is the biggest game of the season, as you say BGC anything can happen. GO IRISH!! POUND THE PANTHERS!!!

  5. Panthers always ready for their closeups vs. Irish; Marino, Craig “ Ironhead” Heyward, Dorsett, McCoy. Should be Irish 50 to 20. But a little extra cosmetics makes it 50 -27.

  6. Well I guess I went a little overboard and forgot Syracuse almost beat Clemson. It is college football and anything can happen. What I should have said is those teams would most likely win out facing Notredames 6 final games.

  7. Well I guess I did go overboard a little and forgot Syracuse almost beat Clemson .What I probably should have said is those teams would most likely win out against notredames final 6 opponents.It is college football and anything can happen.

  8. If NotreDame is truly a national contender then they will win out and none of these remaining 6 games will be close. Alabama Georgia Ohio State and Clemson would roll Notredames final 6 opponents.

    1. Clemson 27-Syracuse 23 . . .so there’s that. Just win!

      Once more, enjoy the highlights as VT is worn down before we Exit Sandman . . .

      Moving on to Pitt:
      They use the run to set up the pass, including the wildcat formation. Pitt’s FG kicker has been successful beyond 50 yards (twice last week vs. Syracuse). ND can’t afford a letdown after two huge wins by the Irish, and should score early and often. The good news is Pitt doesn’t have a great D, it’s their third road game in four weeks, and are winless on the road vs. NC and Central Fla.- giving up 38 and 45 those two road losses. Highlights of their OT win vs. Syracuse last week:

    2. Clemson 27-Syracuse 23 , @ Clemson. . . so there’s that. Just win!
      Moving on to Pitt:
      They use the run to set up the pass, including the wildcat formation. Pitt’s FG kicker has been successful beyond 50 yards (twice last week vs. Syracuse). ND can’t afford a letdown after two huge wins by the Irish, and should score early and often. The good news is Pitt doesn’t have a great D, it’s their third road game in four weeks, and are winless on the road vs. NC and Central Fla.- giving up 38 and 45 those two road losses.

    3. Clemson barely got by one of their 6 remaining opponents (Syracuse)…at home! In fact, the Orange just failed to put them away when they had the chance.

    4. Agree MTA…Pete is either overrating Clemson or underrating Syracuse. We’ll find out which of those is correct when we meet Syracuse on our home field wearing our traditional pinstripe uniforms. Yes folks, in the 100th anniversary year of KR’s first season as head coach, instead of marketing Gipp style throw back letter sweaters, like the one presented to President Reagan for instance, we are marketing Yankee baseball uniforms, in the mistaken belief that we can make more money doing that than honoring Rock and his football teams. Amazing!

      PS to Jack: “KR” stands for Knute Rockne, Jack. Google it, if confused.

      BGC ’77 ’82

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