Justin K. Aller
While it's nice to think Pitt can win this game, if you're a realistic fan, you know that will be a challenge. It's unlikely that the Panthers will be able to win, but stranger things have happened. For Pitt to do the unthinkable and pull off the upset, they'll likely need some help - help in the way of winning the turnover battle, catching a sleeping Irish team off guard, and playing an unbelievable game on both sides of the ball as they did last week against Temple.
Whatever Pitt did last week against Temple, they should, um, do it again. Part of that will be on the coaches this week during preparation. They clearly did a good job motivating the team this past weekend and that will be needed again for sure - especially without the benefit of having a home crowd (insert cruel joke about the light crowd this past weekend here).
The good news for Pitt is that with the exception of a few outbursts this season, the Irish offense hasn't scored a ton of points, ranking a modest 76th in the nation. Pitt has actually scored a few more points (ranking 60th) than the Irish this year. Before you get too excited, Notre Dame's played a far more difficult schedule than the Panthers and that obviously has to be taken into consideration.
While Notre Dame's passing game has ranked near the bottom of the FBS, their rushing attack has been one of the best. Led by Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood, the Irish rack up nearly 200 yards on the ground per game. Pitt's rushing defense has been mostly solid, but has struggled at times and will be tested by the duo.
On defense, the Irish rank among the best. They are one of the stingiest when it comes to giving up points. Offenses have been held to just under ten (that's right - ten) points a game and those will likely be hard to come by on Saturday. The Panthers have been explosive at times when everything clicks, but they haven't faced a unit as strong as the Irish's.
All of that said, can Pitt win this game? Stranger things have happened and the Irish have had some close calls. They beat both Purdue and BYU by only a field goal at home, defeated a very mediocre Michigan team by only seven at home, and disposed of Stanford by only a touchdown. Notre Dame seems to let some average teams hang around and, well, if anyone's average, it's Pitt. That's no offense to the current team, but they've been downright puzzling playing well at times and jobbing to the likes of Youngstown State and Syracuse others.
At first glance, Pitt might be able to win, but don't count on it.