Notre Dame is coming off a not so impressive 12-7 win over Louisville.
The offense moved up and down the field but they were never able to finish. “I don’t even know if it aesthetically looked bad,” head coach Brian Kelly said. “We controlled the line of scrimmage. We controlled the time of possession. I think we had one or two penalties. We didn’t turn the football over.”
All of this is true but the stink won’t go away if they have a similar performance in their first road game at Pitt.
The Panthers won’t be easy despite losing three games in a row. Two of the three losses were by one point (North Carolina State and Boston College).
When you think of Pitt you usually think of their offense but the Panthers boast the number one ranked rushing defense. They are only allowing 61.5 yards per game on the ground. The Irish are seventh in the nation, averaging 261 yards on the ground.
Defensive ends Patrick Jones II (seven sacks) and Rashad Weaver (4.5) lead a unit that averages 4.83 sacks per game. That’s top in the ACC and second in nation. Pitt safety Paris Ford is tied for the national lead with three interceptions.
Tommy Rees and the Irish offense will have to win on first down. This defense might to Rees’ biggest challenge. Keeping them off-guard and slowing down the pass rush will be important. That starts with the offensive line opening holes for running back Kyren Williams.
Ian Book is starting the get the dreaded “game manager” label but lets be honest, he hasn’t been asked to carry a game. That’s a good thing for Notre Dame but there are still plenty of questions about the wide receivers. The current group is the least explosive wide-outs the have had in years. Javon McKinley leads the wide receivers with seven receptions. Tight end Tommy Tremble leads the Irish in receptions with 10. That’s not a good sign for a team that wants to compete with Clemson.
But first things first, the Irish need to win their next two games on the road and show that it can be a dynamic offense. That will have to start this week.