Staff Picks: Notre Dame vs. Pittsburgh

Irish Illustrated’s staff gives its predictions for Saturday afternoon’s matchup between Notre Dame and Pittsburgh in the Steel City.

With Tim Prister’s weekly game preview still to come, the rest of the Irish Illustrated staff offers a few thoughts on Saturday’s high noon matchup with Pittsburgh in Heinz Field.

Pete Sampson
Before the season I predicted Notre Dame would lose at Heinz Field.
I’m moving off that pick, but only slightly. On paper, this game shouldn’t trouble Brian Kelly. The Panthers are offensively challenged and defensively rebuilding. In real life, this game should terrify the Irish. Virtually every intangible favors Pitt, including Notre Dame’s No. 5 ranking in the first College Football Playoff poll. The Irish needed a game-winning touchdown drive in the fourth quarter to beat Temple and Virginia. They’ll need another one to put down the Panthers. Notre Dame will zero style points on Saturday afternoon. But Irish will also maintain their one-loss record to  stay in the hunt through November. This will be Notre Dame’s final gut check before Stanford at month’s end.

Notre Dame 23 Pittsburgh 22
2015 Prediction Record: 8-0


Tim O’Malley
A noon kickoff. A No. 5 ranking. An old rival coming off a home loss and with an extra weekend to prepare. Yeah, this still smells like a trap, just as it did when discussing the matchup in both early and late summer, not knowing any of the ancillary factors that now impact the contest.

But do they have to? Can’t Notre Dame – the better team on both sides of scrimmage – show up, conduct its business, and for once win a road game without sweating it out in the fourth quarter? If they do, it portends well for the season’s final three weeks (and you know what game I’m talking about). In a game that should finish in the 31-16 range, I’ll instead defer to a history of uneven efforts on the road…

Notre Dame 24 Pittsburgh 17
2015 Prediction Record: 6-2


Jack Freeman
Will Notre Dame be ready to go for a rare noon start? The Panthers feature a grinding low-risk offense and a pressure defense that has served them well this season (well not so much against North Carolina). The Irish look to boost their playoff stock with a rare complete game against the Panthers and that’s not an easy task. The Panthers will depend on their defense to pressure the Irish into mistakes if they are to win the game.

Notre Dame 24 Pittsburgh 20
2015 Prediction Record: 6-2


Anna Hickey
Noon kickoff on the road against a worthy opponent that’s coming off a loss, and there’s reason to suggest Notre Dame could struggle. But there’s something invigorating and motivating about a top five ranking in the college football playoff system that will carry weight mentally for the Irish on Saturday. Before it lost to UNC, Pitt’s wins were vs. Virginia Tech, Virginia, Georgia Tech and Syracuse. It fell behind early 20-3 vs. UNC. Not all that impressive. Notre Dame should be able to handle business while covering the spread.

Notre Dame 32 Pittsburgh 23
2015 Prediction Record: 7-1


Jake Brown
Another close, grinder of a matchup with Pitt? Yeah, I think so. Head coach Pat Narduzzi's defense can do enough to keep the Panthers within striking distance. Problem is their offense won't be able to match that production. Let's say C.J. Prosise bounces back from a dismal performance against Temple to help the Irish grind out a road victory against a perennially pesky opponent

Notre Dame 23 Pittsburgh 17
2015 Prediction Record: 8-0


Steve Hare
Pittsburgh comes into the game at 6-2 but the Panthers haven’t exactly played a challenging schedule and had close wins over some pretty bad teams. Notre Dame is battle tested and quarterback DeShone Kizer continues to improve. The Irish will have to run the ball better this week than they did against Temple and that shouldn’t be a problem since the Panthers allow over a yard more per carry than the Owls. Notre Dame’s defense should stand tall against Pittsburgh’s offense, which ranks 90th in the nation in scoring offense with 26.1 points per game.

Notre Dame 31 Pittsburgh 17
2015 Prediction Record: 7-1


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