With all the hype surrounding the Irish after a massive road win in Blacksburg, Virginia, last weekend, there’s a lot to overlook with Pittsburgh coming to town. The Panthers are by no means a great team, and may not even by a good one. But that doesn’t mean that Notre Dame should overlook the potential pitfall in its way of a bye week and a 7-0 start.
Patt Narduzzi and the Panthers have a history of raining on playoff pictures — last year, it was a defeat of Miami. The year before, it was Clemson on the road. And of course, Irish fans will remember 2012. Pitt doesn’t have any stats or players that really jump off the page, but this is the definition of a trap game. After a long midterm week — not without controversy — I won’t be surprised if the Irish come out a little sluggish. It’ll be up to Brian Kelly and the coaching staff to get the team focused on the task here and now.
If the Irish hadn’t struggled against Ball State and Vanderbilt, I could very well see this going down as a shocking loss with all the baggage involved. But this Notre Dame team has had its fair share of scares so far, and is definitely more talented than the Panthers. I’ll take it.
FINAL: Notre Dame 38, Pittsburgh 17
Elizabeth Greason — Assistant Managing Editor
Watch out, it’s a trap. Sort of.
The Pitt game has all the makings of the quintessential trap game. Coming off Notre Dame’s first ranked win on the road since 2012, the squad may have thrown all its energy into last week. It’s fall break and the Irish aren’t playing Stanford or USC, so the support in the student section will be lacking at best. And Pitt has made a name for itself by taking down the best of the best, which some might argue Notre Dame is among this season.
And yet, it’s not a trap. It’s not a trap because the Irish have their eyes on the prize. So while it may not be the blowout fans have come to expect over the past three weeks, it should still be a win. Pitt’s strength is its run game, which is a unit Notre Dame has had no trouble shutting down defensively, as the deep Irish D-line has taken down some tough backs in past weeks. And offensively, the Panthers defense should not pose a problem for the Irish, led by Ian Book, Dexter Williams and Book’s favorite target, Miles Boykin.
FINAL: Notre Dame 28, Pittsburgh 17
Joe Everett — Sports Editor
Halfway through the season, and the Irish are sitting pretty with many of their toughest tests behind them. But, in the spirit of midterms week, any test can be difficult if you don’t study for it like you should.
The Irish need to study for Pittsburgh. The Panthers hold a mere 3-3 record that includes a 45-point loss to Penn State and a 31-point loss to UCF, but earned an overtime win against Syracuse last week and feature an impressive running game. Also, it’s Pittsburgh — a team notorious for upsets and spoiling seasons. Remember 2012? Pitt should’ve won that.
Luckily, I think the Irish front seven should match up well with Pittsburgh’s strength — the running game. The Panthers defense has had at least 37 points put up on it over the last three games, so I envision Ian Book and company continuing to roll. Pat Narduzzi’s squad will fight well for a half, but I think the Irish dominate the second period again.
FINAL: Notre Dame 45, Pittsburgh 20
Charlotte Edmonds — Associate Sports Editor
I’ll always be wary of a undefeated Notre Dame hosting Pitt. Say what you want about how bad this Panthers team is but the script is too similar. Having been at the marquee win over Oklahoma the week before in 2012, I remember the pit in my stomach as I watched a team that had previously been routed by a 7-4 Youngstown State team at home come a field goal short of unraveling Notre Dame’s championship hopes.
But, I’m officially jumping on board the bandwagon. This team’s already had their Pitt (i.e. Ball State and Vanderbilt) and although Ian Book has nearly cemented his status as “the guy” for the Irish, he’s not going to give people any reason to doubt him. Book’s ability to create from the pocket will be a nightmare for this Pitt defense. Having tasted the potential to be a playoff contender last season before falling apart, this team should be looking to make a statement over the next three wins, all of which it is expected to win. Every sign points towards history repeating itself, but I have a feeling this team’s just starting to hit its stride and there’s nothing Pitt can do to stop that.
FINAL: Notre Dame 49, Pittsburgh 17
Connor Mulvena — Associate Sports Editor
I simply can’t fade the Irish this week. Up until this point, I just could not believe that the Irish would keep winning. My two years following this team instilled a pessimism in me which thrust me back into what I thought to be reality every time I imagined a Notre Dame win.
But let’s be honest, Pitt is a bad football team. North Carolina, who most would say is a bottom-10 Power 5 football team, held the Panthers to a total of 35 yards rushing earlier in the season. It’s just not Pitt’s year.
That being said, I’m still not sold on the Irish as a legitimate top-four team. The Virginia Tech win makes me think they’re the real deal, but I still don’t see that Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson killer instinct in this team. Plus, Pitt has shown a tendency to come out of the woodwork and ruin some teams in seasons past, and the Panthers have given the Irish trouble in the past.
I don’t expect the Irish to come out and trounce the Panthers by 50 or anything like that. After two big wins, I think the Irish are in danger of playing down to a team they’ve had close calls with in the past. Notre Dame will win, but don’t expect it to be a cake walk.