I’m going to be the voice crying out in the wilderness this week: this Pitt game scares me.
Vegas (the only folks outside of the coaching staffs that actually get paid to be right) set the line for this one at 21. Pitt’s best defender is done for the season with a knee injury, a tight end just quit the team for “personal reasons,” and they’re giving up almost 40 points per game to FBS opponents. They got absolutely boat-raced by both Penn State and UCF by a combined score of 96-20. The general consensus is Pitt is Bad.
Enter Pat Narduzzi, giant slayer. In 2016, Narduzzi’s second season as head coach in Pittsburgh, the Panthers staged a heroic comeback over #2 Clemson, scoring the final 9 points in Death Valley to ruin a perfect season for Deshaun Watson and the Tigers. This space would be remiss if we failed to mention the game-winning kick came courtesy of Chris Blewitt, which is an absolutely unreal name for a kicker. Like naming your kid Benny Malpractice and he goes on to be a doctor, or a pilot named John Crash. Last year, the Panthers notched a 10-point win over undefeated #2 Miami, the same team that blew the doors off Notre Dame.
Fun with charts!
And it’s not as if Pitt doesn’t have a pulse. Were it not for a 3-point loss to UNC, Pitt would be undefeated in ACC play and theoretically in contention to win a conference championship. They’ve got wins over Georgia Tech and Syracuse, who nearly pulled off the upset at Clemson. Long story short, Pitt has recently been good for one absolutely transcendent performance per year, and Notre Dame certainly looks to be their best opportunity to do something noteworthy this season. Gulp.
There’s a lot for Pitt to overcome on Saturday, not least of all the talent gap, which will be considerable. Rivals has the five-year average recruiting class for Notre Dame ranked 8th — Pittsburgh barely squeaked into the article, checking in at 44th. Notre Dame is currently playing extremely good football, coming off back-to-back three touchdown demolitions of ranked opponents. Nonetheless, I expect Coach Narduzzi and his staff to have the Panthers fired up to play this weekend. They’ve historically played the Irish very close, and they have nothing to lose in an out-of-conference game against a Top 10 opponent. If the Panthers off the upset, it’ll be shocking for college football, but it’ll just be business as usual for Narduzzi.