Tim O'Malley -- PublisherHuman nature. Distractions. Home field hangovers.
Also Ray Graham.
The above represents my quartet of concerns Saturday, but just one of them should be relevant between the lines. Graham has the talent to beat a great defense for a big gain and produce a solid 20-plus carry day as a result. Regardless, Notre Dame is far superior to Pittsburgh, even if the Irish offense regresses to previous home field form after a standout effort in Norman.
Why don't the Irish play as well at home? It's not just theory or message board fodder: Brian Kelly is just 4-14-2 vs. the point spread in 20 career games inside the House the Rockne built (and the general South Bend malaise started two decades before his tenure).
The Irish have posted 50, 20, 41, and 30 points in four games played outside South Bend, never winning by less than 17. Inside the Stadium? 20, 13, 20, 17, never winning by more than a touchdown.
"I think we're looking at a number of different things," said Kelly of the team's home field scuffles though en route to a 4-0 mark. "We want to make sure that Friday and Saturday is not the Super Bowl. Parents asking for tickets. I was here two weeks ago and we had two or three players giving tours of the Gug.
"We just have to kind of bring that in a little bit. We've looked at our schedule, for example, we've moved up the pep rally an hour. Our team will go in and get to the hotel an hour earlier, just to have some more time and some down time. We're looking at how we condense the 48 hours a little more to have some down time."
Kelly agreed that home weekend distractions are far worse for the younger players. "There's no question. It's been educational for me too. I've gone back and forth with different routines. Here's what's not going away: the pep rally's not going away, the mass is not going away, the walk's not going away.
"So how do you manage your day to give them that opportunity to be relaxed so they can be focused strictly on the football game? We're still evolving there. No question, for me and the younger players, we're starting to figure this out where we can come up with a weekend so they're not so distracted."
All that matters at this point is a win. Survive and advance. Stay in good health. Prepare to beat down Boston College on a business trip to Chestnut Hill next week, sans distractions and an opponent with a pulse.
Pittsburgh has one, and my August prediction for this game forecasted the season's major let down: a loss for the Irish, one of four total on the season.
But they've since proven everyone wrong, myself included. I still think Saturday will be annoyingly close as the Irish fight through another home field slugfest vs. a team loaded for bear. Notre Dame 24 Pittsburgh 10
Dave Berk -- Recruiting AnalystCan Pittsburgh catch the Irish sleeping? That should be the only way the Irish have problems putting away the Panthers who are playing better but not great football. On paper and on the field the Irish should have no problem shutting down the Panthers offense while also seeing the offense post points of their own. Saturday night the Irish will be 9-0 on the season after posting a 34-10 victory over the Panthers.
SeattleNDFan -- ModeratorThe timing of the Pitt/Notre Dame game coming off of the big win in Norman is the single biggest concern this Saturday. I anticipate an inevitable let down on both offense and defense to open the game but I also expect the defense to shake it off by the second series and the offense by the second quarter.
On offense Pitt's Tino Sunseri was a horrible fit for Todd Graham's offense but has turned over a new leaf in Paul Chryst's system and this year is among the top 10 highest rated QB's in the nation thus far with a 164 QB rating through 8 games, and Ray Graham and Russell Shell are a dangerous RB combo on the ground. There is no Jonathan Baldwin on this year's Panthers squad but Devin Street and Mike Shanahan have skills and speed at WR and have developed good rapport with Sunseri. But they will face an Irish front seven like none any of them have ever seen this season.
On defense Pitt does not have a dominant star to create individual mismatches, and this season the defenses which have given ND the most trouble have been those with superb individual stars like Kawaan Short, Bruce Gaston, William Gholston or Chase Thomas. Pitt doesn't have that guy this season, and as a result the Irish offense should roll, although it won't likely hit its stride until the third quarter. Again.
This is (another) trap game all the way, but Manti and company will simply not allow the trap to be sprung. Notre Dame 27 Pittsburgh 16
Morrissey79 -- ModeratorNotre Dame returns home after a signature win on the road in Norman. The Irish have struggled the last two years against Pittsburgh, winning 2 games by close margins. The Panthers return two very good running backs in Graham and Shell, and Tino Sunseri is having the best year of his career up to this point.
Paul Chryst is the new head coach and is doing a solid job of creating a physically tough team who is balanced on offense and solid on defense.
However, Pittsburgh has played 4 worthy opponents all season - Virginia Tech, Cincinnati, Syracuse, and Louisville - they are 1-3 against those opponents.
Pittsburgh will have to throw the ball against Notre Dame - something that plays into Diaco's hands. Pittsburgh's OL lost a starter this past weekend and has already struggled in pass protection. Look for ND to have at least 4 sacks on Saturday, as Tuitt, Kap, Shembo, and one of the LBs will have a field day getting pressure on him.
I do expect the offense to come out a little flat, but overall will be a solid performance from all three running backs, and Golson will continue developing (though I think he may take a step backwards this weekend).
In the end, ND is just too much for Pittsburgh, and they win at home by a final score of 27-6.
BNolan -- ModeratorAfter a huge win against OU, in which the staff and team very pleasantly proved me wrong... will there be a let down? Maybe. I mostly doubt it. And if there is, they will regain focus early enough to dispatch with Mark May's alma mater.
(Anyone else daydream about May's pumpkin-esque head exploding like a Gallagher watermelon after being hit by Manti's helmet at velocity? Me too.)
Pitt won't just roll over and show their bellies. At least at first. They have some kids that are on scholarship too. But not like our current bunch. The defense will, well, be the defense. If EG is the same guy who played last weekend, we roll.
Same as last weekend (the kryptonite in regards to my OU prediction): a no turnover/minimal penalties disciplined day and it's a game to give Lou plenty of ammunition to blister his blustery studio counterpart. A flat performance and some mistakes... it could be a game. But it shouldn't be.
And don't go proving me wrong this week, BK and team. ND 34 Pittsburgh 13
KurzND -- ModeratorND is on top of the world. Te'o is up there for the Heisman, the recruiting class if one of the top ones and ND is 8-0. However as they say you are only as good as your last game. With everything going for them ND needs to be careful of a dangerous Pitt team because they are certainly capable of pulling an up set.
For Pitt on offense they have two very good running backs in Ray Graham and the freshman Shell. They have two tall and talented WRs and Tino Sunseri is having a fantastic senior season with 13 TDs to only 2 INTs. ND will have to have a fantastic effort from the D-Line to contain the 1-2 punch of the Graham and Shell. Expect Pitt to mix it up and try to throw on Russell has he will be at a disadvantage by at least 4-5 inches. ND will have to make Pitt one denominational.
As for the ND offense, Golson needs to protect the football and continue his progress coming off his best game at Oklahoma. ND needs to continue to pound the ball on a Pitt defense that will be hobbled by injuries. Look for ND to rush for another 200+ yards as the Irish will keep it simple in the passing with Golson, control the clock, and pound the football.
Pitt just doesn't have enough on the lines to win it. Notre Dame 27 Pittsburgh 13
GaviND -- ModeratorAfter an emotional victory over a heavily favored Oklahoma Sooner team last weekend in Norman, the Irish return home 8-0 ready to do battle with the Pitt Panthers.
While Pitt undoubtedly marks the start of what many Irish fans figure is the easy portion of the schedule, this game could be a little trickier than many expect.
First off, the Irish have been lass than dominant at home and, quite frankly, it's the locale of Everett Golson's shakiest efforts to date. This is a classic trap game and the Irish must not allow themselves to take their eyes off the prize or it could be a long day.
Next, this is not the same Pitt Panther squad that lost their season opener to Youngstown State. While fans will never let that loss be forgotten, this team has started to gel together and play much better football.
Contrary to what most Oklahoma fans will tell you, Russell Shell and Ray Graham represent the best set of running backs the Irish have faxed this year and should be another challenge for and Irish front seven that has been dominant all year.
Defensively, the Panthers rank 29th in total defense, but have been susceptible to the ground game and they have yet to meet ND's three-headed monster of Cierre Wood, George Atkinson III and the immortal Theo Riddick.
Much like BYU, I expect Pitt to come out of the gate swinging because this game amounts to their Super Bowl, however at the end of the day, the Irish wear them down and move to 9-0. ND 27 Pitt 13