Pitt vs. Notre Dame: Panthers have nothing to lose

Matt Cashore-US PRESSWIRE

No matter what the outcome is on Saturday, Pitt has nothing to lose against Notre Dame

Saturday will be unquestionably Pitt's toughest game of the season when the Panthers travel to South Bend to take on red-hot Notre Dame, fresh off a dominating win at Oklahoma. The Irish, much to the dismay of every non-Notre Dame fan, are back in the national title hunt after acing their biggest test of the season in their win over the Sooners. Everyone will expect Notre Dame to roll over the Panthers easily on Saturday.

But we've been in this position before. I shouldn't have to remind you of when it was or who the opponent was. The point is though that Pitt has been a big underdog on the road in the past and has surprised the nation before. I'm not saying that Pitt will win, because I don't think they will. Pitt has had issues with mobile QB's in the past and I don't think that will suddenly change over a week. I don't think Pitt has anyone who can match the physicality and talent level of Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert nor do I think the offensive line has proven they can stop someone like Manti Te'o. The Irish's one weakness, the passing game, is covered up by not just Everett Golson's running, but a stout defense that has kept many teams well below their scoring average.

Again, none of that matters. Because no matter what the outcome is, the weight of this game falls on the Irish. Notre Dame is expected to win by a large margin. And this could be the first time since they played Navy in the opener that the Irish will be such a large favorite. The stakes, however, are much higher for Notre Dame, because in all likelihood, should they win out the rest of the season, the voters will move them up to play for the national title. And unlike the beginning of the season, it's very real now for Notre Dame. They'll have to handle the pressure of going out and taking care of business for the next 3 weeks, a position they really haven't been in much this season. It'll be something to watch for the rest of the way.

That's why Pitt, and Boston College and Wake Forest in the upcoming weeks, should play with everything they've got. Because what do they have to lose? If the Irish win big, then they did what was expected and Pitt shouldn't come away discouraged by that result. But if Pitt keeps it close or even springs the upset, that will go a long way for this team not only for the rest of the season, but for the upcoming ones as well.

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