Notre Dame (1-2) takes on the Pittsburgh Panthers (2-1, 2-0 Big East) this Saturday at Heinz field. The action begins at 12:00 PM ET on ABC.
The Fighting Irish triumphed over Michigan State last week in South Bend 31-13. The Panthers lost a close game against Iowa 31-27. The teams last played each in October 2010 as the Irish downed Pitt 23-17 at home.
Notre Dame and Pitt are no strangers. They first squared off against each other in 1909 and have continued to do so almost every year since. The Fighting Irish leads the overall series 45-20-1. The longest game in team history was played against the Panthers in 2008 and lasted four overtimes.
Notre Dame Offense
The offense really gelled against the Spartans last week. The team has not let their big win get to their heads as they still have much to prove and achieve this season. This is not lost on Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly. “We have not been infected with success yet,” Kelly said Tuesday. “I’ll know when that happens. We need to win more and be consistent and pay attention to the little things.” The Fighting Irish are tied with Western Kentucky for the most turnovers in the nation at 13 case in point. The offense is still very strong in spite and ranked 37th in the nation.
Notre Dame Sophomore phenom Tommy Rees threw for 161 yards and one touchdown against Michigan State. Also important to note is he turned the ball over twice on an interception and a fumble.
On the season Rees has six touchdowns and five interceptions. He leads a team whose passing attack is ranked 27th in the nation. Facing a Panther passing defense ranked 119th in the nation works in Rees’ favor this week.
WR Michael Floyd had a slow day only catching six balls for 86 yards and no touchdowns last week. His 10.3 catches per game ranks Floyd fourth in nation in this category. TJ Jones stepped up with a touchdown on 40 yards receiving, averaging over 13 yards per grab.
RB Cierre Wood rushed for a very pedestrian 61 yards but had two scores. Fellow running back Jonas Gray notched a respectable 65 yards in the contest. RB George Atkinson II was a monster on special teams running back a punt for a 89 yard touchdown.
Notre Dame Defense
The squad is ranked 30th in the nation against the run and a paltry 97th against the pass.
Linebacker Adam Lynch had a stand out game against the Spartans with six quarterback hurries. He also recorded a sack and forced fumble.
The Irish pass rushers look to have a big game playing against an offensive line that has given up 12 sacks thus far this year.
Crafty CB Robert Blanton is saddled with the responsibility of matching up against dangerous Panthers WR Devin Street.
Rookie Pittsburgh coach Todd Graham has enjoyed some recent success against Notre Dame. Last season at the helm of Tulsa his squad upset the Irish 28-27 in South Bend.
The Pittsburgh O is run through QB Tino Sunseri. Last week Sunseri passed for 255 yards and two touchdowns, completing 23 of 33 passes. His numbers were overshadowed by his two interceptions and fumble. In good news for the Irish Sunseri is not very mobile having only scrambled for 19 yards on 28 attempts.
Sunseri has an effective target in WR Devin Street. Last week Street caught seven passes including one for a 66-yard score. He has 236 yards receiving and a TD on the season. Wideout Mike Shannahan is a solid receiver as well.
RB Ray Graham is one of the top running backs in the nation. He gained 97 yards against Iowa, falling short of 100 for the first time all season. He is currently the fifth best back in the country averaging close to 140 rushing yards a game. His six rushing TDs rank him third in the nation.
The Panthers D has come up short in big spots. They have let up a lofty 49 points total in the fourth quarter. The team, returning 8 starters, however is very strong against the run ranked 23rd in the nation. It held Iowa to 76 yards on the ground and looks to put a fight against the Irish.
LB Max Gruber leads the team in tackles and is complemented by the steady play of LB Tristan Roberts. DE Brandon Lindsey is a threat to Tommy Rees having recorded ten sacks last season and at least one in each of the last 15 games.
The game should be closely contested. Both teams are similar in that they thrive on the run and defend well against it. Notre Dame’s passing defense and passing attack are better than Pittsbugh’s. This will be the key to the game. If Floyd and company can produce and Rees plays mistake free look for the Irish to go on a two game winning streak. The Panthers rushing attack is fierce however and will be troublesome to the Notre Dame offense.
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