When: Saturday 10/13 at 2:30 P.M. on NBC
Where: Notre Dame Stadium
Head to Head: 48-21-1 ND
Last 10: 6-4 ND
Notre Dame takes on the Pitt Panther this weekend to try and continue their march of unbeaten. Both teams are coming off wins from last week as Pitt beat Syracuse but Notre Dame had the more impressive victory over Virginia Tech.
Pittsburgh comes into this game with a current record of 3-3 and seems as a team that struggles to slow teams down on defense. The Panthers are currently giving up an average of 32 points per game. While two of their losses were against Penn St and UCF they also have a loss to North Carolina and barely slipped by Syracuse last week.
The Panthers have had a tougher schedule this season so it is hard to gauge exactly where they stand. Syracuse is no slouch and they also have a win against Georgia Tech. Just looking at box scores you can tell the offense can put up points at times, averaging 26 a game. The defense seems to be a real issue and Pitt just received a real blow to their defense today.
Pitt senior linebacker and team captain Quintin Wirginis sustained a non-contact knee injury in practice this week and underwent season-ending surgery today, Coach Pat Narduzzi announced.
— Pitt Football (@Pitt_FB) October 10, 2018
Losing a top player on a struggling defense never spells good for anyone. Any chance of an upset will be that much more difficult with the loss of Wirginis. While terrible news for Pitt, this should help Book and the Irish offense carve up the Panthers even more so.
Key Players to the Game
1. Dexter Williams/ Tony Jones Jr
The running back duo should run wild this week as Pitt is allowing just under 200 yards rushing a game. Both Backs come into the contest averaging over five yards a carry. As previously mentioned, linebacker and captain Wirginis is out for the season. This only helps the Irish in the running game and they should have another big day on the ground. Pittsburgh has struggled with the run all season giving up almost five yards a carry. While I don’t see Williams finishing the year at his yards per carry average, his healthy 8.9 yards a carry should look similar this week.
2. Ian Book
This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Book makes this offense go and we saw when he struggle for a few drives at Virginia Tech, the offense struggled too. This Pitt team comes in allowing an average of 244 passing yards a game and 1.8 passing touchdowns. While Pitt held Syracuse to 200 yards passing, Eric Dungey isn’t an all world passer for Syracuse. Book and the Irish offense should be able to impose their will on Pitt as they have shown they struggle with higher competition. Pitt is also averaging two sacks a game which seems impressive but 5 of their 13 sacks came against Albany.
3. Jerry Tillery
I can pretty much wash, rinse and repeat these three for every week. Jerry Tillery is turning into one of the best defensive linemen in the country this year. Coach Pat Narduzzi of Pittsburgh had this to say at the podium when talking about his match-up with Notre Dame. “They’ve got some creatures out there. The Tillery kid is 6-7, 305, he’s a monster. They should probably have a new cartoon after that guy. You’ve got Superman, you’ve got Tillery Man. That guy, he’s a beast.” The superhero nickname, not great. But Tillery has been lights out this season and should get an opportunity to pad the stats and wreck havoc on the Offensive line.
Pitt always scares me because of 2012 when it took the Irish three overtimes to win. Any team that Notre Dame plays regularly has a story like that for me so I’ll push it aside. Different year and different team so expect different results right, right?
To dive into it, look for Notre Dame in a route. Currently Notre Dame is sitting as a 21 point favorite and I think it could be worse. Pitt will hang around for a quarter or so but they simply don’t have the talent or depth to match the Irish. The Irish will run all over the Panthers and Ian Book will throw for 300+ yards. The Irish defense should have the Panthers in check. Pitt could find some success with their running backs as they average about 200 yards a game. The problem will be the previously mentioned Jerry Tillery and defensive front to say otherwise. There isn’t much to say other then Pitt won’t be able to hang. The only chance of an upset will be if Pitt can keep the rushing game going and the Panther defense is lights out. Both of which will be unlikely.
Notre Dame 45- Pittsburgh 17
Started Saturday Tailgate in 2018. Covering all things college football and talking Notre Dame on Twitter.