The Irish hit the road for the second week in a row Saturday, this time heading to Heinz Field to face a Pittsburgh team that just fell out of the top 25 following a 26-19 loss to North Carolina.
Outside of that loss, the only other blemish on Pitt's 6-2 record is a 27-24 setback to 10th-ranked and still-undefeated Iowa. Among the teams on the Panthers' hit list: Virginia Tech, UVA, Georgia Tech and Syracuse.
Pitt quarterback Nathan Peterman has thrown for 1,373 yards on 120-of-178 passing with a 147.4 quarterback rating. His 67.4-percent completion percentage will test Notre Dame’s secondary, which will be without safety Elijah Shumate during the first half after he was ejected in the second half of last week’s contest against Temple. Peterman’s favorite target, receiver Tyler Boyd, has 578 yards on 63 receptions so far this year. Quadree Ollison is Pitt’s leading rusher with 716 yards on 128 carries.
The Irish defense will need to step up and avoid any mental lapses to prevent a slip up against Pitt. The offense must limit the turnovers, particularly Deshone Kizer, who threw two interceptions in the red zone against Temple (though one as tipped). Will Fuller stepped up when it counted last week but was a non factor the rest of the game. C.J. Prosise will also need to rebound from a poor performance that saw him total only 25 yards on 14 carries against Temple.
The rumors of Brian Kelly’s imminent jump to the NFL persist, though I certainly hope Kelly feels that until he wins a national title at Notre Dame he has ample reason to stay. They don’t build statues outside Notre Dame Stadium for coaches with top-four finishes. Until Kelly lights up the No. 1 sign on top of Grace Hall at the end of the season and hoists the College Football Playoff trophy, he should feel he has something to prove.
If the Irish win out, the CFP committee appears ready to award them a spot in the playoffs. If Kelly can win it all for Notre Dame, then God bless him in the NFL. I just hope he chooses the Bears.
The final stretch starts this weekend against Pitt.
Prediction: Notre Dame 28, Pitt 21.