The injury riddled Fighting Irish make their way to Pennsylvania this weekend to face the Pittsburgh Panthers. The Panthers always give the Irish all they can handle, and this weekend will be no different.
The Panthers defensive strength is their experience in the starting lineup, however with that being said, their depth is extremely young. Nine of the eleven backups on the defense are freshmen or sophomores.
The major weakness of the Pitt defense, besides the young depth, is their run defense. Giving up an average of 164 yards a game gives the Irish another chance to fine tune their running game and solidify their feature backs going into the bye week. The Irish running attack has been coming along over the past several weeks and this is the time and opportunity for Tarean Folston and Cam McDaniel to take hold of their role in the Irish offense.
Looking to hold the Irish running attack at bay will be senior defensive tackle, Aaron Donald. With nine sacks and over nineteen tackles for loss this season, Donald will be looking to make it a long day on the interior of the Irish offensive line. Donald could truly be a game changer if he can get some pressure on Tommy Rees that could lead to turnovers.
The secondary is hands down the strength for the Pitt defense. The biggest matchup to watch this weekend will be TJ Jones against redshirt sophomore, Lafayette Pitts. Pitts, along with K’Waun Williams leads one of the best pairs of corners the Irish have seen all season, and both will challenge the Irish at the line of scrimmage.
Pitt boasts one of the top defenses in the ACC and will provide the Irish with a chance to truly see how far the offense has come this season. The Irish have a lot of young depth at receiver, and I look forward to seeing how these young skill players hold up against the experience of the Pitt secondary. It’s hard to say how often Aaron Donald will be lined up against freshmen, Steve Elmer, but I would expect the Panthers to attack the youngster as much as possible with such a talented tackle up front.
Overall, the weakness of the Panther run defense will allow the Irish offense to execute and maintain their pace and control of the game.