Jeff Baumhower (Recruiting Analyst/Co-Publisher): Pittsburgh was solid in their opening game against Utah, but they have looked average since that time. Pitt doesn't live or die by its running game, but the more effective they are running the more dangerous the offense is. Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri has been hit and miss, and will need to be able to make plays in order to keep the Irish defense off balance. If Sunersi, can do that the ND defense will have the challenge of trying to stop running backs Ray Graham and Dion Lewis.
Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco appears to be sold on the ability of his cornerbacks to man-up on the outside and allow the Irish defense to walk the safeties up to the line in order to stop the run. I think the ND corners are capable of limiting the plays of the Pittsburgh wide receivers, and allowing the Notre Dame defense to focus on shutting down the Pitt running game.
On the offensive side of the ball, Notre Dame should be able to pick and choose what they want to do, as Pittsburgh isn't solid against the run or the pass. The Pitt defense is solid, yet pedestrian… Look for a close game in the first half, but then look for Notre Dame offense to open up with a flurry in the second half and ease to a 35-17 victory. (Look for a breakout game for Michael Floyd.)
Dave Berk (Scout.com/IrishEyes Staff): Last year Brian Kelly battled Dave Wannstedt to a 45-44 victory in the snow. While the weather will not come close to last year's game, both coaches come in looking for their teams to move forward in a positive direction.
The Panthers have yet to win a game against a team worth talking about while the Irish have been well tested in the early going. Look for the Kelly and the Irish offense to find an early groove in this game knowing the Panthers offense is capable of running the football as they try to keep the Irish offense off the field.
Dion Lewis may not be having the season he did a year ago, but Ray Graham is playing solid and together the Panthers can be dangerous. However, the Panthers have a lot of questions and the Irish need to play four quarters of football to win. Irish win 28-17
KurzND (Moderator): ND can put themselves back up to .500 before they take on a considerably lighter schedule than the first couple of games. The biggest thing in their win over BC, was 5 net rushing yards. That is the key is to slow down Graham and Lewis. I believe ND to have more talent, Brian Kelly knows how to beat Dave Wannstedt, and Pitt missing stud in Romeus. Notre Dame 31 Pittsburgh 21
SeattleND (Moderator): I'll go with another conditional prediction this week – IF ND can continue their considerable improvement against the run, after holding Stanford to 5 red zone field goals and Boston College to five net rushing yards, then they should win against Pitt comfortably. Sunseri alone isn't enough to beat us at home, but if Graham and Lewis get untracked, Pitt could run us into oblivion. Their defense has been shredded by the Kelly offense in previous years and if Dayne make any progress at all, it should be again. I think ND matches up almost as well with Pitt as we did against BC and I think the result, should be similar, since Pitt is better than BC but we are at home. Notre Dame 38 Pitt 10
MorrisseyND79 (Moderator): Last week was a good step for the Irish program – they did not play their best (and at times looked downright sluggish) but still won 31-13 – to me that is a huge positive when looking forward.
Pitt comes to town with a team that is tough, but missing some key players on defense. They also have a QB who has not settled in and gotten a good handle of running the offense. Obviously Dion Lewis is a lot to handle, and Pittsburgh will certainly try and run the ball as they have done previously the last two years against the Irish.
With the continued improvement against the run, specifically the play of the starting 3 DL, ND will bottle up Pittsburghs rushing attack and for them to beat us through the air – something they won't be able to do. Key matchup will be Walls vs Baldwin, but I have to think we'll have safety help over the top with Baldwin such a threat.
The offense will continue it's improvement as well, specifically Dayne Crist. He has been close, and is starting to get a strong grasp of what it takes to consistently be the guy here at ND. We get off to a fast start again, having two real strong quarters in the first and the second, too big of a lead for Pittsburgh to come back from. ND 31 Pittsburgh 16
BNolan (Moderator): Can ND play with any consistency? As individuals, as units, and as an entire team? If so, they should be able to dispatch Pitt with relative impunity. Heck, they should anyway as The 'Stache and his team haven't looked that great thus far. Then again, we haven't either. Perhaps it depends on how much yelling Kelly did this week... lol... Irish still inspire some profanity, but also show more incremental improvement: ND 27 Pitt 17
GaviND (Moderator): At the beginning of the season, I had this game pegged as a certain loss for the Irish as I felt with all it's weapons, Pitt could be a top 10 team would likely win the Big East championship. These sentiments relied on two qualifications: (1) Pitt could get competent play from the quarterback position and (2) Defensive End would not face suspension for his part in the well discussed South Beach parties that has derailed the seasons on AJ Green and close to half of the North Carolina defense.
Well, the Panthers have not received competent play from the quarterback position and while Romeus faced no sanctions from his role in the South Beach parties, the elite defensive end will be inactive after undergoing back surgery several weeks ago. The result? The Irish will be facing a team which appears strikingly similar to our last opponent, Boston College.
As was the case last week when they rolled Boston College in Chestnut Hill, the Irish will be facing a very green quarterback in Pitt signal caller Tino Sunseri. Sunseri is a kid who has pretty good measurables, but he is also a kid who looked scared to be on the field against both Utah and Miami -- Pitt's only non-high school opponent.
If Pitt is to have a shot at winning this game, Sunseri needs to play a competent game so that some holes can be opened up for running backs Dion Lewis and Ray Graham. One way for him to do this is to get Jon Baldwin involved in the game early and often. Baldwin is an elite receiver who torched the Notre Dame's defense a year go, but to date is averaging 3.75 catches and 52.75 yards per game.
While Pitt misses Romeus on the defensive line, Senior defensive lineman Jabaal Sheard has done everything humanly possible to limit the loss with some stellar play. Beyond Sheard, however, Pitt appears to have plenty of holes on their defense -- especially in the defensive backfield. Jarred Holley has played very well at times and he is capable of making big plays, but if Kyle Rudolph is healthy, he will have a HUGE day against Holley's backfield partner, Dom Decicco.
In the end, I think Sunseri does enough to keep the game from getting out of hand, but not enough to ultimately win. ND 34 Pitt 24