Well, my Notre Dame Fighting Irish are 8th in the country after surviving a scare from Temple last weekend. But even more importantly, and what makes me even more excited, the Irish are currently fifth in the first playoff projection. Now no, I know that playoff rankings right now don’t mean too much. But it still speaks to the position the Irish have kept themselves in. And after losing their top rusher from last year in Tarean Folson on the first play from scrimmage to losing Malik Zaire in the Virginia game, some would say that they’re lucky to be there. I wouldn’t. They’re a two-point conversion away from potentially being undefeated this season. They’ve made the plays to win games all year long.
Which brings us to unranked Pittsburgh. It might sound like a cake walk, but the fact is that it’s not. The past six games between the two teams have been decided by an average of about 5 points, with two of those games going to overtime. This is a real road game against a really tough team. Coming out and playing like they did against Temple again is not acceptable and will not result in a win this time around. You can bet your ass that’s what Coach Kelly has been saying to these guys all week long.
Offensively speaking, ND is going against the Panthers’ 24th ranked defense. Pittsburgh is pretty balanced throughout their entire defense. DeShone Kizer will have to keep up the roll he’s been on all season long. Kizer has thrown at least one pick in every single start, save the USC game. While I wouldn’t say turnovers have been a problem for the young quarterback, I’d really like to see him have a clean slate this time around. But as long as he keeps threading the needle for the rest of the game and makes smart decisions in the run game, I’ll take whatever I can get. I also want to see more out of Will Fuller. He’s by far the best receiver on this team, and probably a top-five threat in the country. But his possession numbers have been down, even if he has scored in all but one game this year. I’d like to see him get a little more involved. I’m sure we’ll see him in the end zone for the fourth straight week.
Defensively, I need the same energy brought to the Temple game; Pittsburgh is a solid team. Though they lost reigning ACC Player of the Year James Conner, they haven’t skipped a beat yet this season. Qadree Ollison has stepped right in and taken Pitt by storm. Their new quarterback, Nate Peterman, has also played well this year, throwing for just short of 1,400 yards and 10 touchdowns. And finally, junior receiver Tyler Boyd has been a horse for them this year, hauling in over 60 catches for 4 touchdowns. They’ve got some good options. Peterman is young but doesn’t make too many stupid mistakes, and Boyd will be one of the better receivers that KeiVarae Russell has had to cover this year.
I like the Irish by a couple of touchdowns. ND football is in a higher spot in the opinion of the committee than I thought they would be. Now, all they need to do is win the games in front of them. If they are to get in, they’ll need help which will be out of their control.