With the Irish off to an 8-0 start there’s a feeling of belief. This team has the “It Factor” working in its favor. The great start could lead to great benefits this season and beyond.
Hallelujah! Notre Dame Football is relevant again. In the win column, mind you. Television ratings aside, the relevance I care about (and true Notre Dame fans in general) derives from the success the Irish earn within the white lines of the gridiron. Well done lads. Well done. 8-0 is 8-0, and the Irish earned it. Now on to the next item of business for this year’s team and recruiting.
Will There be a letdown versus Pittsburgh?
I say a little bit. It’s only natural. The Panthers don’t hold the same appeal as the Sooners. That’s reality. What Pittsburgh does possess is an offensive philosophy that best suits the Notre Dame defense, however, making this a very interesting slugfest. Paul Chryst became the Panthers head coach this past off season and installed virtually the same offense that Wisconsin ran, the school he was the offensive coordinator from 2005-2011. He’s teaching the down-hill, run-right-at-you, power football that the Badgers all but perfected during the past several years. Pittsburgh’s a solid offensive team, but they’ll need some breaks to more than just dent the Notre Dame defense’s armor.
The Panthers average a mere 150.38 yards rushing per game. They do average an above average 281.50 yards passing per game. Keep in mind that Pittsburgh was all but forced to pass against most quality competition this season. 93 yards rushing versus Louisville, 137 versus Cincinnati, and a paltry 27 yards versus Syracuse. Ironically, Pittsburgh churned out 254 yards versus Virginia Tech, a team that’s disappointed this season. Still, it’s obvious that Pittsburgh does not do very well, normally, rushing the football versus quality competition. If Pitt is forced to pass over and over versus Notre Dame, look for the Irish to sack Tino Sunseri a half dozen times. The Panthers really struggle in pass protection against quality defenses, too.
The Notre Dame offense may not roll Pittsburgh, but the offense showed serious signs of life versus Oklahoma. The consistent running game and the ability of Everett Golson to buy time with his legs proved to be the difference in the game. The Irish wore down Oklahoma’s defense and made the big plays in the fourth quarter. That’s Irish Football!
I expect Theo Riddick, Cierre Wood, and George Atkinson III to slowly break down the Panthers and combine for over 180 yards rushing. When adding in Golson’s rushing totals, the Irish will eclipse 200 yards rushing. Look for much of that yardage to come in the second half, however, as Pittsburgh will definitely stay in the game at least through the first half.
Notre Dame 27 Pittsburgh 10
Giving Credit to the Coaching Staff
Revisiting the Oklahoma game just a moment, think about three things and make of it what you will.
- 1.The play calling after the Sooners tied the game at 13. Pass on first down. Second down, the bomb to Chris Brown that totally changed the momentum of the game. The aggressive nature of coach Kelly and the offensive coaching staff paid dividends.
- 2.The Notre Dame defense did not allow a single passing touchdown and intercepted one pass to an offense that threw 8 touchdown passes the prior four games versus only 2 interceptions.
- 3.Oklahoma fans were mostly quiet in the second half. That’s perhaps the greatest statistic. Notre Dame controlled the game, by and large, and the Oklahoma fan base knew it.
With limited scholarships remaining, it’s hard to say how the final spots will play out this year, but with the momentum the Irish gained in recruiting earlier this year and 8-0 start it’s safe to assume Notre Dame will receive recruiting dividends this year and next. Recruits notice the on the field performance now, and the effect will pay larger payouts for the class of 2014. Whom will the Irish sign? Hard to say. Given the high level of talent Notre Dame continues to be involved with, the results will be very good regardless of which recruits fill out the class of 2013, and expect more of the same next year.