Week 11 - Notre Dame at Pitt

Posted Nov 6, 2013

Week 11 Fearless Prediction & Preview - Notre Dame at Pitt

Notre Dame (7-2) at Pittsburgh (4-4) Nov. 9, 8:00, ABC

Why You Should Give A Hoot: When it comes to Notre Dame, Pitt has a very long memory.

The Panthers have not forgotten last year's loss in South Bend, a triple-overtime thriller that was painfully allowed to slip away. Pitt wants redemption for blowing a game that would have kept the Irish out of the national championship game. It also wants to move a step closer to a bowl bid, which will require two wins over the next four games. Notre Dame has won four straight to reenter the Top 25—and the at-large BCS bowl discussion. The Irish needed to rally late to get by Navy a week ago, but they also beat Arizona State and USC in October. If ND can somehow get to 10-2, it's going to play in someone's January bowl game.

Why Notre Dame Might Win: The Panther offense has been stuck in neutral since the 58-point outburst against Duke back on Sept. 21. Since then, Pitt has averaged 18 points a game, which included a visit from Old Dominion. The Irish want to chase lumbering Tom Savage from the pocket while stressing a mediocre Panther O-line. After rushing for minus-5 yards and allowing five sacks to Georgia Tech, Pitt will have its hands full trying to contain a front featuring NT Louis Nix, DE Stephon Tuitt and linebackers Prince Shembo, Carlo Calabrese and Dan Fox.

Why Pittsburgh Might Win: Don't blame Pitt's recent problems on the defense. The Panthers kept run-oriented Navy and Georgia Tech in check over the last two weeks, a trend it'll continue this weekend. The Irish must find a way to neutralize DT Aaron Donald, who's become one of the most dominant defensive forces in the country this season. When No. 97 is getting maximum attention, it'll help free up the rest of the unit to slow down the Notre Dame running game. In third-and-long, Tommy Rees is not the kind of quarterback that can be counted on.

Who To Watch Out For: The Irish have been an intriguing mix of veterans and youth this season. A bright future can be seen in players like LB Jaylon Smith and RB Tarean Folston. Folston was one of last week's heroes, rushing for 140 yards and a score on just 18 carries.

- Pitt has to breathe life into a running game that's been non-existent the last two weeks. If the line is unable to occasionally spring Isaac Bennett and James Conner, the Panthers are going to be blatantly predictable on third downs.

- Remove the Duke game from Savage's stat line and his totals read eight touchdowns and seven interceptions in seven games. He needs more time to go through his progressions, because receivers Devin Street and Tyler Boyd form a terrific duo when used properly.

What Will Happen: Pitt couldn't alter Notre Dame's postseason plans in 2012, but it will in 2013. The Panthers are due to weave a complete game, buoyed by hosting the Irish and getting a rare national TV audience. Donald will broaden his reach beyond just the ACC, and the offense will generate just enough third-down conversions and Chris Blewitt field goals to spoil ND's BCS bowl hopes.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 23 … Notre Dame 21
Line: Notre Dame -5 o/u: 51
Must See Rating: (5 The Wolf of Wall Street – 1 Ass Backwards) … 2.5
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