Updated: Oct 23, 2020
Pat Narduzzi’s Panthers were 8-5 a year ago and in 2020 they stand at 3-3. They notched solid wins over Austin Peay, Syracuse and Louisville to open the season, but since then have dropped 3 straight to NC State by a point, Boston College in overtime and last week at Miami 31-19.
Starting QB Kenny Pickett sat out the Miami game last week battling an injured ankle and gave way to Arizona State transfer Joey Yellen. Pickett is a solid veteran in his 4th year as a starter and completes his passes at a 60% rate. Last week Yellen played pretty well in the loss, he was 22-46 good for 277 yards and a touchdown. Yellen is more of a stay in the pocket QB, Pickett can scramble. Pickett's status is still up in the air late in the week in what could be a game time decision.
The Pitt running attack has been mostly by committee. Vincent Davis, a 5-8 175-pound sophomore is the team’s leading rusher but averages only 2.8 yards per carry. Last week against Miami the Panthers managed just 22 net yards on 26 carries.
6-0, 170 Jordan Addison is a talented freshman receiver who has 38 catches on the year good for 444 yards and 3 TDs.
Overall on offense the Panthers are ranked near the bottom running the ball, but they are 20th nationally in passing, averaging 283 yards per game. They have struggled on 3rd down where they rank 61st out of the 77 teams playing, and the offensive line surrenders lots of tackles for loss at 8 per game.
It is on the defensive side of the ball where Pittsburgh really excels. They boast the #1 rushing defense in the nation, giving up just 61.5 yards per game. Overall this defense has been outstanding giving up an average of 274 yards and just 20 points per game.
Defensive ends Rashad Weaver and Patrick Jones II have 13 sacks between them and as a team Pitt is averaging nearly 5 per game, 2nd best in the nation. The Panthers are also among the best in the nation in forcing turnovers, with 8 interceptions and 4 fumbles recovered.
Both the Irish and the Panthers are playing great defense and both are one dimensional on offense. The Irish run well and the Panthers pass well. Look for the Panthers to try and shut down the Irish run game and force Ian Book to throw the ball down field. Unless Book can get that part of the Irish game going, this may be a low scoring affair, and turnovers may tell the final tale.
Vegas favors the Irish by 10 1/2. Over/under is 43. TV coverage on ABC starts at 3:30 PM South Bend time.
FIP Pick: ND 24 Pittsburgh 13