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Preview: Notre Dame's Fighting Irish look to tame the Pittsburgh Panthers

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Record:

Notre Dame 2-2 (Last game: win over Boston College 31-13)
Pittsburgh 2-2 (Last game: Win over Florida International 44-17)

This Saturday the Fighting Irish square off  against the University of Pittsburgh Panthers in South Bend. Coming into this game with a hard-fought victory, Notre Dame looks to continue its winning ways against Pitt. This is no modest task as the Panthers 2-2 record coming off a 44-17 rout of Florida International. Notre Dame needs to limit its mistakes, especially turnovers, and play tougher on run defense to give their team a chance to win.

Pittsburgh Offense

The Panthers have averaged 27.2 points a game and 353 yards of total offense for the year.

Sophomore Pittsburgh QB, Tony Sunseri, threw for a modest 169 yards and 1 touchdown last week.

The Panthers have two dangerous halfbacks in Dion Lewis, one of the best in the nation, and Ray Graham. Lewis had been nominated as the starter for Saturday by Coach Dave Wannstedt but has to give another thought to playing Ray Grahm. The sophomore, replacing the injured Lewis last Saturday, ran roughshod over the Golden Panthers  gaining 277 yards on 29 carries and three touchdowns. More than likely the two players will both see action against the Fighting Irish.

The Pittsburgh receiving corp is led by dangerous WR Jonathan Baldwin who has gotten off to a slow start with 211 yards and two touchdowns after a monster2009 campaign marked by 1,111 yards and 8 touchdowns. WR Doug Ellison, who caught a TD last week, has 237 yards on the season is a threat as well. The running attack of Pitt could open up the passing game and leave these targets wide open. Last season Baldwin torched the Irish for 142 yards and one touchdown.

Notre Dame Offense

The Fighting Irish offense is averaging 24.6 points per game and 404 yards per game. The air attack for Notre Dame averages 293 yards.

Coming off solid 31-14 win against the BC last week, Dayne Christ had a fantastic game completing 24 of 44 passes for 203 yards with 3 touchdowns. He also showed some confidence and recklessness in diving head first for a 7 yard score. The Irish QB’s season totals as of yet are 1358 yards with ten touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Christ leads the the 17th best passing attack in the nation.

Armando Allen had a solid rushing effort with 90 yards on 19 carries bringing his total season yardage to 392 yards. He also notched a touchdown against BC. 

The receiving corps of Michael Floyd Theo Riddick each totaled 69 yards receiving as Riddick scored on 20 yard strike in the first quarter.  Kyle Rudolph added a touchdown in a solid effort.

Notre Dame Defense

The Irish have let up this year an average of 24.8 points per game and 401 yards including 152 on the ground. The run defense will be on its heels in trying to contain the two headed rushing beast of Dion Lewis (143 yds., 2 TDs) and Ray Graham (495 yds, 5 TDs). Though the Fighting Irish have been susceptible to the run this year it stepped up last week and held the Boston College to 5 total yards rushing.

The passing defense of Notre Dame did give up a touchdown and 137 receiving yards last week to BC WR Bobby Swiggert. Look for Fighting Irish Senior CB Darrin Walls to try and contain flashy Pitt WR Jonathan Baldwin.

Pittsburgh Defense

The Panthers on the year allows 22.8 points per game and 341.8 yards per game.

Last week the defense slowed down the Florida International allowing only 99 rushing on the day. They did however surrender 223 yards in the air.

The teams are nearly identical statistically on paper. The Rushing attack of the Panthers will be fierce. Notre Dame has the best defense in its home field advantage. Dayne Crist and the Spread Offense will put points on the board for the Irish. Tony Sunseri, a sophomore with only three starts, will capitulate to the pressure with the Notre Dame offensive winning the edge on turnovers. If Notre Dame however commits its usual several turnovers or so, it will not win.

Prediction: Notre Dame 20 – Pitt 18.

(Saturday October 9, 2010 3:30 EST (NBC))
 

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