Notre Dame Football Primer: Resurgent Irish Host Pittsburgh Panthers

After an impressive victory over USC, the Fighting Irish are back to host their longtime “rival,” the Pittsburgh Panthers.

Fresh off a bye week, Notre Dame Football will host the struggling Pittsburgh Panthers. Although out of the College Football Playoff picture, the Fighting Irish showed they are still hungry to win by demolishing USC. With four games remaining in the regular season, the Irish hope to have a New Year’s Six Bowl game and continue recruiting momentum. But Pat Narduzzi’s Panthers will be upset-minded when they enter South Bend on Saturday afternoon.

Essential Game Info:

  • Game Time: Saturday, October 28th at 3:30 PM ET on NBC
  • Location: Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Indiana
  • Matchup History: Notre Dame is 49-21-1 all-time against the Pittsburgh Panthers (Last Meeting 2020: Irish won 45 to 3)
  • Current Odds: Notre Dame -18.0

Pittsburgh Details

  • Conference: ACC
  • Head Coach: Pat Narduzzi
  • 2023 Record: 2-5 (1-3)
  • 2022 Record: 9-4 (5-3)

Weather Forecast

The current GameDay forecast shows a 45% chance of rain, with a high of 53 degrees and a low of 49.

Pittsburgh Storylines:

Pat Narduzzi’s team has struggled this fall. In 2021, Pittsburgh finished 11-3 (8-1 in conference) and won the ACC Championship. The following season, they followed their ACC title up with a respectable 9-4 (5-3) campaign under Coach Narduzzi.

The Panthers added former Notre Dame and Boston College Quarterback Phil Jurkovec this year, but he lost his starting job earlier this season. Entering Saturday’s showdown, the Panthers have lost 6 of their last 7 meetings against the Fighting Irish.

The Panthers Offense is led by Christian Veilleux. After taking over for Phil Jurkovec earlier this season, Veilleux is 52 for 98 (53%) with 647 passing yards, 5 passing touchdowns, 2 interceptions, and 2 sacks taken. He has 17 attempts for 26 (1.5 yards per carry) on the ground. The Panthers rushing attack is led by former Irish tailback C’ Bo Flemister. This fall, Flemister has 68 carries for 282 yards (4 yards per carry) with 2 rushing scores.

The top receiving targets for the Panthers are Konata Mumpfield and Bub Means. In 2023, Mumpfield has 30 receptions for 347 yards with 3 touchdowns, while Means has 20 catches for 326 yards and 3 scores.

Notre Dame Storylines:

Al Golden is shining as defensive coordinator. Notre Dame faced four outstanding offenses; all were undefeated, and all were primetime night games. I had my doubts about Al Golden early during his time in South Bend, with the lack of quarterback pressure from the defensive line and unusual safety blitzes. Still, this season would have been a disaster without the Irish defense.

The Fighting Irish Defense dominated Ohio State and USC. It is safe to say that Al Golden’s stock is rising at Notre Dame.

Conversely, Gerad Parker’s stock is diminishing. I know there is a laundry list of reasons why this offense has struggled, and the receiving core has not been the healthiest. But with Sam Hartman, Audric Estime, an extremely talented offensive line, and the multitude of skill with the tight ends alongside the wide receivers, there are too many elite offensive players on the roster for this offense not to be scoring more points.

It sounds generic, but this offense does lack creativity. Even with Drew Pyne last fall, Tommy Rees was able to dial up some creative plays to take advantage of a strong offensive line, even if there were no opportunities in the passing attack. I just do not see this offense going to the next level with Kenny Minchey, CJ Carr, and Deuce Knight under Gerad Parker.

Head-to-Head Matchups:

Notre Dame Offense vs. Pittsburgh Defense: The Fighting Irish Offense averages 415 yards per game, while the Pittsburgh Defense allows 322 yards per contest. Yes, Gerad Parker’s offense has struggled the past month, but this could be the game the Irish get things rolling again, facing a struggling Panthers team.

Advantage: Notre Dame

Pittsburgh Offense vs. Notre Dame Defense: The Panthers Offense averages 321 yards per matchup, while the Fighting Irish Defense allows 283 yards per game. Al Golden’s group has a clear advantage in this matchup, and the Irish Defense has played terrific at home.

Advantage: Notre Dame

Special Teams: Spencer Shrader is 9 for 14, with his longest conversion at 54 yards. Pittsburgh’s kicker Ben Sauls is 6 for 9 with his longest conversion at 46 yards.

There is no distinct advantage.

Advantage: Tie

My Prediction:

This will likely be the game that the Fighting Irish Offense resembles the offense fans saw during the first four weeks of the season. Yes, Notre Dame put up 48 points on the Trojans, but there was a kickoff return for a touchdown, and the Irish Defense essentially set up the offense on numerous scores. There were not many substantial offensive “drives” from Gerad Parker’s offense.

Who will come out with more energy on Saturday, the Fighting Irish or the Panthers? It has been a while since the Panthers gave Notre Dame a good scare, and I do not believe it will happen this year. It will be difficult for this group to match the energy of the past two home games, but the Irish will start pulling away in the second half.

I have the Fighting Irish winning by 25 points, and they will gain some much-needed offensive momentum heading into a tough road matchup at Clemson.

Prediction: Notre Dame 38, Pittsburgh 13

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