On Thursday night, Pitt's four-game win streak was snapped with a disappointing loss to North Carolina. The Panthers do get a few extra days of rest, but there's not much time for a break with Notre Dame coming into town on Saturday. Here's an early look at the Fighting Irish.
Notre Dame checks into the game with a 7-1 record. The lone loss for the Irish was a 24-22 defeat at the hands of now No. 3 Clemson. Along the way, Notre Dame has beaten Texas, Virginia, Georgia Tech, UMass, Navy, USC, and Temple.
Notre Dame hasn't fared much better against the teams Pitt has played. Like Pitt, the Irish beat Virginia by seven points (though Notre Dame did it on the road while Pitt did at home). Notre Dame beat Georgia Tech by eight at home while Pitt defeated the Yellow Jackets by three on the road.
Most Recent Game
The Irish narrowly beat Temple, 24-20 on the road this weekend.
Running back C.J. Prosise has been one of the better rushers in college football this season. His 947 yards on the year rank 17th in the nation and he has 11 touchdowns already. Will Fuller leads the way at wide receiver with 37 grabs for 748 receiving yards. He has nine receiving touchdowns on the season and has gotten into the end zone every game except one (Clemson) this year.
Sophomore DeShone Kizer starts at quarterback for the Irish. On the season, he's completed 65% of his passes for 1,669 yards. Kizer has thrown at least one touchdown pass in every game he's started this year, and overall, has 11 touchdowns to six interceptions.
The six picks indicate he's at least somewhat prone to making a mistake or two and he had two giveaways this weekend against Temple. Kizer also has those six interceptions through only six contests as he barely played in the team's first two games. As a starter, he's only had one game where he hasn't thrown an interception.
Like a few of the quarterbacks Pitt has faced this year, Kizer is a mobile one. He ran for a season-high 143 yards against Temple and has 318 yards and five scores on the season.
The Irish have one of the top offenses in the nation, ranking 17th with nearly 500 total yards per game. They also check in at No. 24 in scoring offense, averaging 36.5 points per game. The Irish are good defensively, but they have been great particularly on third downs with opponents converting only 29% of the time against them (good for eighth in the nation).
Notre Dame doesn't have many weaknesses statistically but a few things play into Pitt's favor here. Their red zone offense has struggled a little, converting points only 79% of the time, ranking them 98th in the country. Notre Dame also loses the turnover battle more often than not, averaging .13 fewer turnovers than their opponents.
Pitt will have its hands full with Notre Dame. On paper, this looks like one of those games that the Panthers will have a difficult time winning. But the Panthers' success against Notre Dame and head coach Brian Kelly can't be ignored, either. For whatever reason, it's a game Pitt is always very prepared to play. The Panthers have won three of the past six games (including the last one in 2013) and while the Irish have taken three of the last four, they've won those three by a combined 12 points.
Pitt should have a chance to win the turnover battle and getting the game at home is a benefit, of course. The Panthers also get a little extra rest with Notre Dame playing late Saturday night and Pitt having been off since Thursday night's game. Few would argue that the Irish are the more talented team but while things look bad on paper, it would be foolish to count the Panthers out, too.
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 founder/editor @AnsonWhaley