Last Saturday's loss to Navy has, for the third time this season, forced a change in the format to our weekly Just the Facts column.
1 – National rank of Pittsburgh's defense among 120 FBS teams in total sacks. The Panthers have registered 39 sacks in 9 contests (7 more than their closest competitor, USC). 18.5 of Pitt's 39 QB takedowns have come courtesy of the team's front four personnel.
2 – Meetings between the Panthers and the Irish since 1977 in which both teams have been ranked. Pittsburgh and Notre Dame have squared off on 20 occasions since that '77 battle (won 19-9 by the No. 3 Irish vs. the No. 7 Panthers) and in all but five of those matchups (1986, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2008) at least one of the two programs entered the contest nationally ranked.
The unranked team has defeated the ranked opponent in this matchup in each of the teams' last three meetings under that condition. (2003-2005). Notre Dame's loss to Navy last week dropped them from the national polls.
3 – Wins by the Irish over a ranked opponent since Weis' first victory, a 42-21 handling of No. 23-ranked Pittsburgh in Heinz Field. Weis actually began his career 3-0 against ranked teams, beating Pittsburgh; following that conquest with an upset win over No. 3 Michigan in Ann Arbor seven days later; and then taking down No. 22 Purdue in West Lafayette in his fifth career game as Irish head coach.
Following that '05 Purdue conquest (October 1, 2005) the Irish have faced an unusually low number of ranked opponents (12 through 54 games) and are a sobering 1-11 in that span, with the lone win occurring in the 41-17 drubbing of No. 19 Penn State in Week Two 2006.
Of Weis four career defeats of ranked opposition, three have occurred away from South Bend.
4 – National rank of Pittsburgh's remaining three-game schedule. The Panthers must face the 6-3 Irish Saturday; travel to 7-2 West Virginia; and return home to tangle with 9-0 and fifth-ranked Cincinnati.
5 – Combined touchdowns scored by Irish running backs Rashon Powers-Neal (3) and Darius Walker (2) vs. Pittsburgh in Charlie Weis first career coaching win. Walker scored on a 51-yard screen pass and later on a sprint over left tackle for a short TD run while Powers-Neal hammered away for three rushing scores of 2, 9, and 4 yards that culminated drives of 9, 8, and 20 plays, respectively.
6 – Consecutive November matchups in which the Irish defense has yielded at least 167 rushing yards to its opponent dating back to November 1, 2008 in a home matchup vs. Pittsburgh. The Irish have yielded 178, 167, 178, 170, 175, and an astounding 383 (Saturday vs. Navy) in that span.
7 – National rank of Pittsburgh freshman running back Dion Lewis among all FBS ball carriers. Lewis has averaged 126.5 yards per game (5.6 yards-per-carry) totaling 1,139 rushing yards for the 8-1 Panthers.
8 – National A.P. ranking of the Panthers entering Saturday night, the highest Pittsburgh's been ranked (in either poll) since 1982. In that '82 season, the No.1 ranked Panthers (led by QB Dan Marino) were upset at home by the unranked Irish, 31-16 (the latter, a fact surprisingly excluded from the Panthers game notes).
9 – Touchdown receptions for Irish sophomore wide receiver Michael Floyd in his last nine games played. Dating back to October 25, 2008 at Washington, Floyd has appeared in nine games and totaled 44 receptions for 792 yards and 9 scores despite playing less than half of one contest (he suffered a knee injury vs. Navy in 2008) and taking the field after an extended injury absence (vs. Hawaii and then Navy last Saturday) in two others.
10 – Touchdown receptions for Panthers senior tight end Dorin Dickerson this season. At 6'2" 230 pounds, Dickerson is often split wide in the Panthers scheme and has enjoyed a breakout campaign after posting just two touchdowns on 13 receptions in 2008.
3 – Golden Tate's national ranking among 120 FBS players in both receiving yards per game (117.7) and highest career yards per catch (17.6) by an active player.
Bonus Stat: 36 – Pass completions by the Irish offense of 20 yards or greater this season. The Irish offense ranks sixth nationally in total offense but just 36th in scoring offense through nine contests.
Mind Boggling Bonus Stat: 754– Career rushing yards by former Pittsburgh Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett vs. the Notre Dame, a record total for an individual vs. the Irish. Dorsett also holds the single-game rushing record vs. Notre Dame: a 303-yard outburst in 1975.
On the HorizonIrish players that could reasonably accomplish statistical milestones Saturday vs. the Panthers:
Golden Tate: Needs one touchdown reception to move into a tie with both Derrick Mayes (1992-95) and Rhema McKnight (2002-06) for second place on the school's career touchdown list (22).
Tate is 14 yards shy of passing Tom Gatewood (2,283 from 1969-71) for fourth-place on the school's career receiving yardage list.
With 91 receiving yards Saturday, Tate will pass Jack Snow (1964); Tom Gatewood (1970); and Maurice Stovall (2005) for the second-highest single-season yardage total in team history (Tate has 1,059 receiving yards, just 191 shy of Jeff Samardzija's career mark (1,249).
Finally, Tate needs eight receptions to tie former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown (1984-87) for 5th place on the program's career receptions list with 138.
Michael Floyd: Floyd can tie legendary Notre Dame tight end Ken McAfee (1974-77) for eighth place on the program's receiving touchdowns list if he scores twice vs. the Panthers. Floyd has 13 TD receptions in 15 career games.
Jimmy Clausen: Clausen needs one touchdown pass to move past his position coach and former Irish signal-caller Ron Powlus (1994-1997) into second place on the program's all-time list with 53. Clausen would then likely need every one of the plausible 16 remaining games of eligibility (through the bowl game next season) to pass the school's career leader, Brady Quinn (2003-2006) who threw an astounding 95 touchdown passes, the 10th highest total in NCAA history.
James Aldridge: Needs 23 rushing yards to reach 1,000 for his career.
Sam Young: With a starting appearance Saturday night in Pittsburgh, Young will tie the school-record for career starts (48) held by Tom Zbikowski (2004-2007) and Maurice Crum, Jr. (2005-2008). Young has started 47 consecutive games, the only Notre Dame offensive lineman in school history to start every game of his career.