Notre Dame Football vs. Pittsburgh Game Day Primer

BLACKSBURG, VA - OCTOBER 6: Quarterback Ian Book #12 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish looks to pass against the Virginia Tech Hokies in the second half at Lane Stadium on October 6, 2018 in Blacksburg, Virginia. (Photo by Michael Shroyer/Getty Images)
BLACKSBURG, VA - OCTOBER 6: Quarterback Ian Book #12 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish looks to pass against the Virginia Tech Hokies in the second half at Lane Stadium on October 6, 2018 in Blacksburg, Virginia. (Photo by Michael Shroyer/Getty Images) /

Everything you need to know about Notre Dame football’s matchup vs the Pittsburgh Panthers.

This afternoon, No. 5 Notre Dame looks to go 7-0 as they take on a 3-3 Pittsburgh team in Notre Dame Stadium. Here’s a rundown of what you need to know:

Kickoff: 2:30 p.m. ET

Channel: NBC

Line: Notre Dame -21.5

Weather: At kickoff it will feel like 45 degrees with 50% humidity. Slight 9 mph breeze with 0% chance of rain throughout the game. This is what you call PERFECT football weather.

Series History: This will be the 71st meeting between the two schools. Notre Dame leads the all-time series 48-21-1.

Top Storyline: The Irish look to avoid a potential trap game and head into the bye week a perfect 7-0. This is the first matchup with the Panthers since 2015 and the first time these teams have played in Notre Dame Stadium since the Irish had a 29-26 three overtime victory to preserve their perfect season in 2012. A win tomorrow would mark the first 7-0 start for the Irish since that 2012 season and would be the 49th win against Pittsburgh in school history.

Injury Report: After suffering a stinger against Stanford, defensive end Daelin Hayes was a late scratch against Virginia Tech. It seemed as if he would sit out this week as well and recover over the bye week, but Brian Kelly announced that he would play vs Pittsburgh. How much he plays remains to be seen, but expect to see #9 out there causing problems for the Panthers. Cornerback Troy Pride suffered a mild ankle sprain last week and is expected to play sparingly. With the bye week next week and the ability for ankle sprains to linger, I would not expect to see Pride on the field too much today. Finally, running back Jafar Armstrong is still sidelined by a knee infection and is expected to return to action after the bye week.

Milestone Tracker:

  • Running back Dexter Williams is 20 yards away from reaching the 1,000 yard career rushing mark. Expect him to surpass that on his first few touches.
  • Kicker Justin Yoon has made 49 career field goals, nine shy of breaking the school record of 57 set by previous Irish kicker Kyle Brindza. He won’t break it this week, but it is worth keeping an eye on.
  • Jerry Tillery enters the game with seven sacks on the season. The Irish record for sacks in a season in 13.5 set by Justin Tuck in 2003. Two sacks today would put him in a three-way tie for sixth most sacks in a season in school history.

Key Offensive Player for Pittsburgh: Qadree Ollison, RB

Though the Panthers have struggled this season, their rushing offense isn’t terrible, averaging just over 200 yards on the ground per game which is ranked 39th in the country. Ollison is one of the biggest reasons for their ground game success. So far this season he has 92 carries for 596 yards and six touchdowns. Last week, he gashed Syracuse to the tune of 192 yards on 24 carries. Look for him to get his fair share of touches this afternoon.

Key Offensive Player for Notre Dame: Ian Book, QB

It’s pretty simple. When Book plays well, the Irish offense is an another level. Book was near perfect in his first two starts of the season in blowout wins vs Wake Forest and Stanford. Though Notre Dame pulled away last week, it was the first time this season we saw that Book was in fact human. His deep ball accuracy was not good, overthrowing numerous passes including a would-be touchdown to Chris Finke whose closest defender wasn’t even in the camera frame. We also saw Book toss his first interception of the season. Look for him to bounce back in a big way today and continue to keep this offense rolling.

Key Defensive Player for Pittsburgh:  Rashad Weaver, DE

The key defensive player for Pitt would have been senior linebacker Quintin Wirginis, but he unfortunately suffered a non-contact knee injury this week and will miss the remainder of the season. Weaver is only a sophomore but is making his presence known with 26 tackles, nine tackles for loss, and two sacks to go along with his three fumble recoveries so far this season. He is the best defensive lineman for the Panthers and will need to put together a standout game if Pitt wants to stick around longer than the first quarter. Look for him to line up over both tackles and try to disrupt Book and the Irish offense.

dark. Next. Staff Predictions vs. Pitt

Key Defensive Player for Notre Dame: Jerry Tillery, DT

As mentioned earlier, Pittsburgh has had some success running the football this season. Notre Dame has the 38th ranked rushing defense in the country, giving up 127 yards per contest on the ground. That is 75 yards under the rushing average for Pitt. After Tillery’s monster four-sack game vs Stanford, he was relatively quiet vs VT, racking up just five total tackles. If he puts together another dominant performance and helps shut down the Panther ground game, it could be a long day for Pittsburgh. I’m expecting Tillery to bounce back today and make some noise in the middle of that defense.