Preview: Notre Dame at Pittsburgh
by Dave Congrove
The preseason forecast at CollegeFootballPoll.com, based on the Congrove Computer Rankings, picked Pittsburgh to go 11-1 and win the Big East and Notre Dame to go 8-4. So far, those picks are shaping up nicely.
The Panthers enter Saturday's game ranked 7th in the CCR Top 120 and 12th in the BCS Standings. They are 8-1 overall and tied atop the Big East standings with Cincinnati at 5-0. The Pirates host the Bearcats in the season finale on December 5.
Notre Dame is coming off its second loss to Navy in the last 3 years after owning the Midshipmen for 43 years. At 6-3, the Irish have almost certainly kissed a BCS bowl goodbye and must avoid a possible season-ending slide against a fairly strong slate of opponents. Notre Dame still has a home game with UConn and a trip to Stanford left on the schedule so 6-6 is far from unfathomable.
The Irish feature a potent offense, led by QB Jimmy Clausen and WR Golden Tate. Clausen ranks 5th nationally in passing yards per game, 3rd in passer rating, and 8th in completion percentage. Tate is 3rd in receiving yards per game, 12th in receptions, and tied for 2nd with 10 TD catches.
Notre Dame's problem has been on defense where it ranks 79th in yards allowed and 49th in points permitted. The Irish have somewhat made up for that shortfall by creating a turnover margin of plus-8.
Pittsburgh brings a well-balanced attack led by QB Bill Stull and RB Dion Lewis, the nation's 7th-leading rusher. Stull has 17 TD passes and just 4 INT's for a team that only throws the ball 26 times a game. For comparison, Notre Dame averages 36 pass attempts and Clausen has 20 TD passes and 3 INT's.
The Panthers' defense only ranks 21st, but that's statistically much better than Notre Dame. They also have a plus-8 turnover margin.
Pitt head coach Dave Wannstedt is in his 5th season at his alma mater and is 33-24. That record includes 17 wins in the last 21 games.
Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis is also in his 5th season at his alma mater and is 35-24.
Pitt won last year's game 36-33 in overtime for its 2nd victory in the series in the last 3 meetings. Overall, the Irish have a 44-19-1 advantage in an off-and-on rivalry that dates back to 1909.