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Staff Predictions: Notre Dame vs. Pittsburgh

Observer Sports Writers | Thursday, November 1, 2012

Allan Joseph
Editor-in-Chief

Let’s get this out of the way right now: It’s not 2002.

By now, you’ve heard about the 8-0 2002 squad. If you haven’t, look below. But these Irish are nothing like the 2002 team for a number of reasons – most importantly, they win with defense.

We’ve seen it time and time again over the years. When a team relies on an eye-popping offense to win games, one off day against a motivated team can derail hopes of a perfect season. Notre Dame’s already done that against Purdue and BYU and triumphed. Even a bad day from the offense will be enough with the suffocating defense on the field.

Yet I don’t think the offense is going to have a bad day. The Panthers are better than they were when they lost to FCS foe Youngstown State, but not that much better. This one’s easy.

FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 38, Pittsburgh 6

Andrew Owens
Assistant Managing Editor

Ten years ago, Notre Dame returned to campus with an 8-0 record and top-five ranking after its signature win at Florida State to face an inferior opponent at home with the BCS-hype meter off the charts. Sound familiar?

Don’t even entertain the thought of Pittsburgh handing the Irish their first loss the way Boston College did in 2002. Brian Kelly knows the players need to stay focused on the Panthers, not outside noise or gimmicks like green jerseys. Tyrone Willingham didn’t get that memo.

The Panthers enter November fighting for bowl eligibility at 4-4. Running back Ray Graham is talented, but no match for an Irish run defense that held Oklahoma to 15 rushing yards. If Everett Golson continues his momentum from last Saturday, this game will be out of hand by halftime.

FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 30, Pittsburgh 9

Chris Allen
Sports Editor

After throttling Temple last weekend, Pittsburgh head coach Paul Chryst gave his players the right to wear last names on their jerseys for a big road game against Notre Dame. On the other end of the spectrum, the Irish have succeeded thus far because they have shunned individual glory and adopted a team mentality. That mentality will need to be on display against a Panthers team that truly hates Notre Dame and would love nothing more than to deliver the death blow to its national championship hopes.

That dreaded first loss may yet come, but it won’t come Saturday. The Irish defense has already stopped quarterbacks and running backs of far higher quality than Tino Sunseri and Ray Graham. The 2012 Irish are too focused to drop a game like this one.

FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 27, Pittsburgh 12

Andrew Gastelum
Associate Sports Editor

Don’t underestimate this Pittsburgh team. This will be Panthers quarterback Tino Sunseri and running back Ray Graham’s third time starting against the Irish and they will be have to be motivated to give the Irish all they can handle.

But this Notre Dame defense proved it can hang with anyone last week in shutting down a powerful Oklahoma attack that was supposed to tear apart the Irish secondary.

Meanwhile, Everett Golson will have his chances to shine Saturday against Pittsburgh, although he will still make his fair share of mistakes. Look for the Irish to win comfortably but not as big as everyone thinks they will.

FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 24, Pittsburgh 13

Matthew DeFranks
Associate Sports Editor

If one thing happened last weekend in Norman, Okla., it was Everett Golson’s confidence growing tremendously.

I’m not talking about beating-Michigan-State confidence or throttling-Miami confidence. I’m talking about big-game confidence. He has now proven to almost everyone that he is ready for the ball, the game and the spotlight.

While all that may be true, it really won’t matter all too much this Saturday against Pittsburgh. The Panthers have been one of the more inconsistent teams in the nation this year going up against a real national title contender. Manti Te’o and the rest of the Irish defense continue to do their thing while the offense buries Pittsburgh. I just do not think this one is close.

FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 37, Pittsburgh 10