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Staff Predictions: Notre Dame vs. Pittsburgh

Observer Football Beat Writers | Wednesday, November 6, 2013


Why does Pittsburgh always play Notre Dame tough? I’ve never understood why these games are so close (last year’s triple-overtime “thriller” and then an early-morning snoozefest at Heinz Field two years ago). Even more so, I don’t understand why this game is the 8 p.m. showcase game on ABC.

Nonetheless, I suspect this is the year that Notre Dame finally breaks that spell of close games. Brian Kelly will make sure his players are focused with just this game in the way before the bye week and then two tough games to close out the year. 

Look for Tommy Rees to have a big game in the air since there are a few injuries on the interior offensive line that will affect the running game. Notre Dame jumps ahead big early on, and never looks back.

FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 31, Pittsburgh 10


Assistant Managing Editor

To put it nicely, the Panthers are not very good on offense. They have struggled to run the ball recently, racking up just 26 yards on the ground in their last three games against BCS opponents. They have allowed nearly four sacks a game and just debuted a new offensive line during last week’s loss to Georgia Tech (they ran for minus-8 yards that game).

Even for a Notre Dame team searching for depth in the front seven, this Pittsburgh offensive line should not be much of a challenge if Tuitt, Nix and Day are all able to go full tilt.

On the other side, it appears that Notre Dame has a ground game going with the Tarean Folston’s breakout performance combined with the steady Cam McDaniel and the speedy George Atkinson. Notre Dame will have to rely on a trio of first-year starters (if Chris Watt is out) to contain the Panthers’ Aaron Donald but the Irish should be able to slip by.

FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 27, Pittsburgh 13


Sports Editor

We all remember last year. 

Notre Dame snuck by Pittsburgh and won 29-26 in triple overtime. In fact, the past five meetings between these two squads have been decided by an average of four points.

This year should be another close one.

Notre Dame’s rushing attack broke out in a huge way Saturday against Navy, and Tarean Folston was borderline sensational. But the Irish will have to go up against Panthers defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who leads the nation in tackles for loss per game (2.4). Pittsburgh’s offense has looked anemic at times and is coming off a 10-point showing against Georgia Tech. But the Panthers will take their cracks against a depleted Notre Dame defense.

Saturday will be closer than people think, but, in the end, it will be too much Irish.

FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 27, Pittsburgh 21


Associate Sports Editor

The close win over Navy was a step back for the Irish, but it was still a win. This week Notre Dame  faces an opponent with a more traditional offense, and they will do so on a national stage. 

Last year the Panthers nearly derailed Notre Dame’s dream season, and the matchup looks a lot closer on paper now than it did then. Pitt defensive lineman Aaron Donald is coming off a performance against Georgia Tech in which he notched 11 solo tackles, six tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and a sack. Rest assured he will cause problems for an injury-stricken Irish offensive line. Notre Dame’s defense is even more beaten up, and redshirt senior quarterback Tom Savage has the experience to lead an upset bid. But the Irish put the pieces together to survive another week.

FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 24, Pittsburgh 20


Sports Writer

Can trap games follow trap games? Sandwiched between Navy and BYU,  Pittsburgh seems like another game leading up to Stanford that this Irish team could overlook.

The Panthers have lost three of their last four, with the lone win in that stretch coming against Old Dominion. The matchups seems to favor an Irish win, although the last five games in this series have all been decided by less than a touchdown. Vegas believes history will repeat itself, favoring the Irish by less than five points. And Notre Dame’s injuries are approaching a true decimation, which has left it paper thin on both sides of the ball. Still, the Irish will put together enough for another win, one that may be lacking in style points but shouldn’t be in doubt late.

FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 31, Pittsburgh 16