Staff Predictions: Pittsburgh
Observer Sports Writers | Thursday, September 22, 2011
After three games, I have picked exactly zero games correctly. In my defense, no one saw the loss to South Florida coming, and I would have had the score of the Michigan game exactly right … if the game had ended 30 seconds earlier. And last week, the Irish overcame their mistakes to beat Michigan State.
This week should be the week I actually get one right. The defensive line was impressive again last week, pushing around a strong Spartan front. That will continue. Tommy Rees should have plenty of time to throw and plenty of breathing room for his seemingly-inevitable turnovers. Notre Dame isn’t yet playing to its potential, but Pittsburgh isn’t good enough to win. The Irish will get their second win of the season on the weekend I get my first one.
FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 31, Pittsburgh 14
It’s as Mickey said in “Rocky II,” or a censored version of what Linkin Park says in “Numb/Encore” — “What are we waiting for?”
What was Notre Dame waiting for? Where was that team all season?
Yes, Notre Dame still turned the ball over three times, but at some point the Irish will cure the punt return woes. If nothing else, stick Michael Floyd back there to fair catch every time around. And the offensive line certainly paid the price for letting Tommy Rees get blindsided, causing a fumble.
With the turnovers finally cured, or nearly so, and the defensive front showing its true potential, no need to wait anymore.
After all, Rocky beat Apollo Creed the second time.
FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 31, Pittsburgh 10
The Irish showed last week just what they can do when they don’t beat themselves, though they still committed three turnovers. The Irish did not need a 100-yard performance from either Cierre Wood or Michael Floyd to win by double digits. It seemed as though the offense simplified things and executed better than they had all season.
The defense held the Spartans to just 29 rushing yards, as the defensive line dominated the interior and kept Michigan State off balance most of the game. Pittsburgh has only played one legitimate opponent so far this season, losing to Iowa last week. Notre Dame is once again the better team — the question remains whether or not they will beat themselves like they did against South Florida and Michigan.
FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 34, Pittsburgh 20
Associate Sports Editor
Notre Dame is still a flawed team.One week does not erase the recurring problems of this team. The Irish still have secondary and special teams issues, but last week was a step in the right direction.
This week Notre Dame faces a Pittsburgh team that, quite simply, is not very good. Panthers coach Todd Graham will restore success to the program, but 2011 will be rough for the former Tulsa coach who beat the Irish last season.
Panthers running back is very talented, but one thing the Irish have proven is they can stop the run. They will keep Graham in check and force Tino Sunseri to throw early and often.
Cierre Wood and Jonas Gray will combine for over 200 yards as this still-flawed team rolls to victory.
FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 38, Pittsburgh 13
Assistant Managing Editor
After the dismantling of Michigan State, Notre Dame heads into Pittsburgh with more confidence than any one-win team in the nation, and rightly so. Tommy Rees played the worst game of his career, and yet the sophomore quarterback continues to do just enough to give the Irish a chance to win. He’s due for a breakout performance against Pittsburgh, and if the offensive line continues to keep his shirt clean, the sophomore could post the best numbers of his career against a suspect Panthers secondary.
Brian Kelly also just discovered his new favorite toy: freshman defensive end Aaron Lynch’s bull rush on third down. In addition to Kelly’s praise of the rookie’s genetic composition, the head coach said he just has a desire to bring the quarterback down.
FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 42, Pittsburgh 14