I’m hoping Pitt is practicing hard. That they are gearing up for the game. That the coaches are pushing the “nobody believes in us” angle. Every little button, motivating tactic. Whatever. Pitt will need it to pull an upset. I’ve grudgingly watched this Notre Dame team play outstanding defense, especially up front. And do just enough on offense in games so that they can grind teams down. This is a very good team. Not a fraud outfit like Charlie Weis run teams.
Notre Dame is at home. Brian Kelly can be a jerk, but he is a really good football coach. He is getting all that highly-ranked talent to do more than have people make excuses for why they haven’t met expectations.
Notre Dame is the team positioned to jam itself into the national championship discussion if it keeps winning. At worst, a BCS Bowl. They are the 17 point favorite in the game.
Pitt is the team that lost to 1-A Youngstown State. Pitt is the program that has been in flux, at best. Absolute chaos at other points over the last two years. Lost recruiting classes. Shifting styles of play.
The upside is Pitt doesn’t have the pressure on them. They can be the spoilers (even if Chryst doesn’t want to publicly state that), while setting themselves up for a strong finish to the season.Pitt has been playing ND fairly regularly (12 meetings in the past 16 years, with this the 5th straight year of playing), so there isn’t any mystique about playing a game against the Domers in South Bend.
Of course, for Pitt to have a chance, Pitt can’t have the slow starts to each half that have set the tone. Pitt’s four losses, either out scored or tied after the first quarter. All four wins, had them leading after one quarter.
During the Temple game, a friend leaned over to me and asked, “What the hell is Chryst telling these kids at halftime?” That was a really good question, and all I could suggest is that maybe he just plays them some soothing music. Whatever they are doing in the locker room, it isn’t working. The third quarter has been where the offense fails to realize that the defense has adjusted. Pitt has been outscored 59-37. Not even averaging 5 points in the quarter. Some of that may be connected to the fact that Chryst doesn’t defer on kickoffs to the second half when Pitt wins the toss, so most of the games have had the opponent with the ball to start the third quarter. Still, that isn’t enough to explain the struggles.
Here are Pitt’s scoring totals by quarter with Pitt first: 55-52, 78-36, 37-59, 61-27.