Notre Dame vs. Pittsburgh: Brutally Honest Game Preview



With three of their first four against ranked teams, Notre Dame had their “echoes woken up” on them right off the bat. But at least they had some desert last week in the form of rival Boston College. Having a 2-3 record after consuming the meat and potatoes of their schedule isn’t catastrophic. But now you can “shake down the thunder” because the cupcakes are coming! And with the remaining schedule, 7-5 in 2010 still seems very doable.

This week, they welcome Dave Wannstedt (a begrudgingly familiar site to Chicago Bears fans) and his 2-2 Pittsburgh Panthers to Notre Dame Stadium. Wanny has always been like a football version of a sitcom stock character. “Oh, that wacky neighbor Wanny! What hi-jinks and tomfoolery will ensue on this weekend’s episode?”

Well, if you want to learn more about Pitt and their players, start watching “America’s Most Wanted” because this team has more arrests than Rick James and Lindsay Lohan combined.

By Paul M. Banks

taylor swift selena gomez ND

Throughout the season, I’ll be bringing you these informative yet blunt game previews of every contest I cover (and a second game that week that interests me); with a heavy focus on my three “home teams” Northwestern, Illinois, Notre Dame, and the Big Ten in general.

Notre Dame Synopsis: This will be the first meeting of Head Coach Brian Kelly and Dave Wannstedt since last year’s Big East title game. When you look at QB Dayne Crist‘s numbers through his first five games, they match up very favorably with those of former ND QB legends Joe Montana, Joe Theismann, Ron Powlus, Jimmy Clausen, and Brady Quinn (More on that tomorrow). However, we already know ND can throw the ball. And they certainly will this week, having their top ten passing offense taking on Pitt’s 99th ranked run defense.

But it’s stopping the opponent that’s been a problem. However, I do have some optimistic defensive facts and stats here. The Irish limited Boston College to minus-21 yards rushing in the second half. Boston College had 17 possessions in the game and 11 went for 10 yards or less, including six drives for five yards or less. ND forced the Eagles into nine three and outs. The Irish also forced Boston College into 11 punts. Notre Dame has not forced an opponent into as many punts since Rutgers punted 11 times on Nov. 23, 1996.

In fact, the Irish have not forced an opponent into more punts since Oct. 20, 1973 against Army when the Cadets punted 12 times in a 62-3 Notre Dame rout. Notre Dame registered 5.0 sacks and 11.0 tackles for loss last Saturday. The 11.0 tackles for loss were the most by Notre Dame since Nov. 19, 2005 when the Irish had 12.0 against Syracuse

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Pittsburgh Synopsis: Second string running back Ray Graham put up some fat numbers after being given his shot at first-team carries.He’s averaging 9.5 yards a carry, to go along with 5 TDs and 500 yards. However, getting their first-stringer Dion Lewis back will be HUGE. As Walter Football wrote in their 2012 NFL Mock Draft:

Last year, Dion Lewis tallied 1,799 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns on a 5.5 average, and also grabbed 25 balls for 189 receiving yards. He’s only 195 pounds, but remember that at 5-8, he’s more compact than a running back who’s 5-11, 205.

Stopping the run will be key for the Irish, and before last week’s win in Boston, that idea seemed pretty hopeless.

However, the Irish improved upon their 99th ranked run defense to hold BC to just 5 yards rushing on 23 carries. Pitt has won the last two, but in order to keep that positive trend going, they’ll need to establish the run early and often, and play effective ball control.

Guys you’ll see Saturday eventually playing on Sundays: Michael Floyd could be a first rounder, Manti Te’o looks like a 2012 first rounder, and ND tight end Kyle Rudolph, should also be in “the shield” one day. DE Kapron Lewis-Moore and NG Ian Williams have potential too. Possibly Robert Hughes who for NFL teams seeking a fullback. We’ll talk about Theo Riddick in 2011. Pitt is loaded with WR Jonathan Baldwin, a possible top ten pick, DE Greg Romeus who was considered a top five pick in the offseason, but now his stuck has fallen considerably. And the tailback Lewis himself, a possible first rounder in 2012.

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Prediction to be taken with a grain of salt (actually make that a whole truckload of salt):

Notre Dame 34, Pittsburgh 17 (Banks’ record 8-2)

Notre Dame’s defense has allowed only one rush of longer than 10 yards over its last two games after surrendering 21 such carries in the first three games of the 2010 season. Keep that trend going, and they’ll win today. And possibly take out Navy and USC later in the season, two teams that have been a thorn in their side as of late.

Paul M. Banks is President and CEO of The Sports , a Midwest focused webzine. He is also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, the Chicago Tribune’s blog network, Walter, the Washington Times Communities, Yardbarker Network, and Fox

He also does a regular guest spot each week for Chicagoland Sports

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank

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