Well after a blown call, 3 way too close quarters, an offensive bust out in the 4th, and another stellar day for Ray Graham, the Pitt Panthers are headed to South Bend this weekend with a 2-2 record.
The offense looked pretty bad at times last week and really didn't find a groove until the 4th quarter. I've said it before and I'll say it again, this team will not have a chance to crack the top 25 again unless Tino becomes more consistent in his last 3 years of eligibility. While the offense was struggling the defense manhandled the inferior Golden Panthers and prevented this game from being more of a nail biter than it could have been.
The strong defensive showing is a good sign heading into our 2nd toughest road game of the season. This week we will be up against the best coach that we have seen in the last two seasons. Brian Kelly is a great coach and has really dominated at every level he has been at. No matter where the guy ends up, he wins. The reason for this is that he can find ways to mold his system around the players he has instead of trying to mold the players into the system. As we've seen here, that doesn't always work.
Notre Dame will be spreading out the field against Pitt. The match up I'm most interested in seeing is if Dom DeCicco will get significant time again at linebacker. I don't buy Wanny's excuse that it is a nickel package. Dom is basically playing linebacker in a coverage role. Regardless of that, Dom is the one guy I would trust to line up at linebacker and cover a receiver. Sure Dom probably isn't as fast as most of those guys, but he is a former secondary player and having experience at safety should lead him to have a better grasp on proper coverage than a linebacker.
The thing that will make this game is does Brian Kelly still have the blue print on how to beat Dave Wannstedt? Now some people will tell you that Kelly has destroyed us when we've met. Let us not forget that 3 years ago Pitt defeated a ranked Cincy team at home. 2 years ago with the Big East title on the line LeSean McCoy was in the middle of a play to tie the game when the Cincy Students rushed the field and for some reason everyone stopped, Wanny never mentioned it, Cincy didn't get flagged, and the game just ended. Last year, well, that was all Wanny's fault for not adjusting the special teams and the game plans when things were getting a little troublesome. That is exactly what happens when you take your foot off the gas and have an attitude that "any mistake is never able to be overcome".
This will probably be the worst ND team we see over the next few years, so the Panthers better strike while the Iron is hot. Both teams have huge question marks and neither squad should be underestimating the opponent. Playing in South Bend is never easy. Heck, I'd probably guess and say it's impossible for a sophomore quarterback with only a few starts under his belt to go on the road and beat Notre Dame on the road (wink wink).
At the end of the day, this game means more for Pitt than it does for Notre Dame. For national perspective Pitt needs to with the game for ourselves and for the Big East. A loss here most likely means a 7-5 season after predictions of 10 wins and a Big East championship. That simply would be unacceptable. A win however then gives us a victory over 1 of the 3 actual real non-conference opponents. It sets the table for Pitt to enter Big East play on a 2-0 run in a league that is winnable for any team.
Picking a winner of this game will be tough because Notre Dame is flat out awful this year. What makes it tricky on the Pitt side is that you never know what type of Wanny coached team you will see on the road against a major opponent. Do we play aggressive on both sides of the ball or do we come out in a shell like we did against Utah?
My best guess is that it will continue to be a low scoring contest (I'd take the under) and neither team will win by more than a touchdown. The line is currently Notre Dame - 6. Somehow I just see the Panthers winning another nail-biter here. Pitt wins this one 24-21.