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Week 10 – Pitt at Notre Dame
Posted Nov 1, 2012

Week 10 Fearless Predictions - Pittsburgh at Notre Dame

Pittsburgh (4-4) at Notre Dame (8-0) Nov. 3, 3:30, NBC

Here’s The Deal: Now that Notre Dame has won its biggest game of the Brian Kelly era, can it maintain its focus and intensity as the schedule takes a sharp turn in the direction of the mundanes?

The fourth-ranked Irish have been one of the main stories of college football in the first two months, riding the backs of an elite defense into national championship contention. The program answered remaining critics with Saturday night’s monumental upset of Oklahoma in Norman, effectively navigating all of the tallest hurdles of the schedule. Kelly’s objective now shifts from getting up for national powers to avoiding a letdown in upcoming dates with middling squads from Pittsburgh, Boston College and Wake Forest.

The Panthers have been what their records says, average, but they are in the midst of a mini-uptick. Pitt has not only won back-to-back games to answer back-to-back losses, but just got done pummeling Temple, 47-17, for its most complete effort of the season. If first-year head coach Paul Chryst would like to put his rebuilding plan into overdrive, he’ll have the opportunity to do it this Saturday afternoon in South Bend.

Why Pittsburgh Might Win: There’s a very good chance that the Panthers won’t get the same Notre Dame team that just got done beating Stanford, BYU and Oklahoma in succession.

The Irish are good, but it’s hard to imagine that they can play with the same focus and intensity as they did last Saturday against the Sooners. Pitt is liable to see a slightly less intense version of the Irish that are a bit more vulnerable to an upset. Notre Dame’s offense has been sketchy for most of the season, ranking 96th nationally in passing and 75th in scoring. The Louisville game aside, the Panthers have been steady on defense, standing 29th in the country. With a nice blend of veterans, such as DT Aaron Donald, LB Shane Gordon and S Jarred Holley, and fresh legs, Pitt has been able to limit damage and big plays.

Why Notre Dame Might Win: Every bit as good as advertised, this defense hasn’t had an off week all year.

The Irish’s defensive dominance hit a crescendo in Oklahoma last weekend. The unit has been utterly impenetrable throughout 2012, allowing less than 10 points per game. Notre Dame is going to manhandle a weak Pitt O-line, a group with no anchor, at the point of attack. Yeah, LB Manti Te’o is the cover boy of the front seven, and justifiably so, but the D is also about DE Stephon Tuitt, NG Louis Nix and S Zeke Motta. Tuitt and Nix will overmatch whichever blocker winds up on the other side of the ball. This week, the Panthers revert back to being the squad that had a hard time scoring on Buffalo and Syracuse, rather than the one that lit up Temple last Saturday.

What To Watch Out For: It’s been a predictably up-and-down year for Notre Dame rookie QB Everett Golson. After playing one of his best games of the season, the staff is hoping that he’s reached a new stage in his evolution.

There were plenty of reasons to be excited about Saturday night’s upset in Norman. The play of Golson was high on the list. He made things happen with his feet, was efficient through the air and generally played with uncommon poise considering the stage and the circumstances. If Golson can continue to evolve now that the competition will be dialed down for a while, he’ll be a far more polished product by the time the Irish travel to USC on Nov. 24.

What Will Happen: Notre Dame is human. It’ll stumble out of the gate for a while. But a slow start won’t prevent the team from remaining one of the country’s six unbeaten programs.

It’ll be impossible for the Irish to be as stoked as they were last week. Good thing that it’ll be pretty impossible for Pitt to mount many scoring drives in South Bend. Whatever malaise ND might be feeling will quickly be offset by the play of a defense that has shown few weaknesses through the first eight games. Not to be overlooked, the offense is improving as well around Golson and the running of a deep group of backs.

CFN Prediction: Notre Dame 30 … Pittsburgh 13
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Notre Dame -16.5 O/U: 45.5
Must Watch Rating (5 – The Man With The Iron Fists, 1 – Election coverage until Tuesday morning): 3