At First Glance: Pitt vs. Notre Dame

Jonathan Daniel

Yeah, I get it, we're all a bit bummed after Pitt's loss to Georgia Tech. That's two in a row for the Panthers and after a 4-2 start, things aren't looking as rosy as they once were.

Ah, but cheer up, friends. It's time for Notre Dame!

Before you get all doom and gloom on me, you should know that the Irish aren't the team they were last year. Notre Dame is 7-2, so let's not go overboard - this isn't a bad football team by any means. But they're also not the national championship contenders they were last year.

The Irish are 1-2 against ranked teams and the lone win came against Todd Graham's Arizona State team that is no longer ranked by a mere three points. The Irish also have four-point victories against a down USC squad and the same Navy team that beat Pitt. Notre Dame is a good team, but I'm not sure they're a great one this year.

A quick look at the team stats won't show anything special. Notre Dame's defense is down but still respectable at 40th overall in the FBS, giving up 23 points a game. On offense, the running game (88th) is down, but the passing game isn't too bad (56th).

Here's the thing, though. The Irish, as usual, have played a killer schedule. Don't be fooled by all of the talk that the Irish are overrated this year or that they're not a solid team. This is a very, very good team that still will be favored to beat Pitt. Notre Dame has already played Oklahoma, Michigan, Michigan State, USC, and Arizona State, and will still play No. 5 Stanford and a very good BYU team. The fact that they're 7-2 with that gauntlet should tell you all you need to know.

Their team stats may not be all that impressive but they'd look much better against a weaker schedule. I just have a hard time taking this team lightly merely because they're not as good as they were last year.

In case you needed it, though, there is some good news. Pitt's offensive line might get a slight respite from the defensive lines they faced against Florida State and Georgia Tech. The Irish have only 13 sacks on the season, ranking 89th in the FBS. Tom Savage might have a little time to throw in this one. A little, I said.

Pitt also comes back home after road games against Navy and Georgia Tech. And with a sold out Heinz Field crowd behind them, that should help.

Then there's last year's debacle. I'm not a big believer in things carrying over year to year once the whistle blows, but if Pitt doesn't have that collapse in the back of their minds and aren't using it for some sort of motivation, there's something wrong.

Lastly, Pitt always gets up for Notre Dame. The Panthers have lost the last three games, but only by a total of 12 points. They won the two before that. Pitt has generally been very competitive against the Irish.

At first glance, it won't be an easy game for Pitt. But if the offense makes some progress, the Panthers can compete for a win.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and manager/editor of Cardiac Hill @AnsonWhaley

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