The Notre Dame football team’s 1st bye week of the 2023 is over and a Week 8 matchup against the Pittsburgh Panthers is next on the docket.
This bye week seemed like it would never come, and I was initially excited about a break from college football wrecking by nerves. But by Wednesday I was Pablo Escobar sitting in the swing (Narcos, Season 2). Sure, my blood pressure was much more measured but after having gone an eight straight week bender of Notre Dame football the hangover was kind of wicked.
But we’re back now and without further ado let us dig into the preview data for Pitt.
Since 1930, there have been 69 games in the Irish-Pitt football series. Notre Dame has dominated over the years with a 48-21 record. Pitt’s biggest victories came prior to 1980 and ND is coming into this game on a 3-win streak dating back to 2015. In 2020, the Irish walked away with a big 45-3 win at Pitt.
By all metrics, the Panthers are not having a good season. They’re 2-5 overall and 1-3 in ACC play. They kicked off 2023 with a 45-7 rout of Wofford but things got really rough shortly after. Somehow, they snapped a four-game losing streak against Louisville (the collateral damage of that abomination is still being determined) but dropped their last game to Wake Forest 17-21.
Pitt had its best, overall offensive performances against Wofford, North Carolina and Wake Forest, only one of which resulted in victory. They’re averaging 330 yards of total offense per game but in four of its seven played games they only tallied up between 211 and 288 yards.
The passing attack has been the go-to offensive weapon for the Panthers. The West Virginia game was the outlier, with rushing yards accounting for 62% (130) of the team’s 211 total offensive yards.
Phil Jurkovec started off his college football career at Notre Dame back in 2018. After a three-year stint at Boston College, he finds himself under center for Pitt. Outside of the Louisville win, Jurkovec’s 2023 season hasn’t been great. He hit a season-high pass completion percentage of 73% in the North Carolina loss and hit a season-low of 31% passes completed against Cincinnati. Even in the Louisville win, Pitt only completed 46% of their pass attempts. The Panthers will be coming into Saturday’s game having completed 62% of their passes for an average of 6.7 yards per completion last week against Wake Forest.
Pitt is averaging 34 rushing attempts per game in 2023. They utilized the ground attack the most in the season’s first four games, but attempts have somewhat dropped off since then. Pitt made 32 rushing attempts against Wake Forest and averaged 3.5 yards per carry. Even with fewer carries, they’ve been progressively getting more efficient since the season low against Virginia Tech.
Ball security hasn’t been a big issue for Pitt. The Panthers have five total turnovers this season and three of them were interceptions all thrown in the 17-6 West Virginia loss.
This should be a comfortable return to action for the Irish football team. The Louisville win is the only real highlight of the Panther’s season so far. They’re scraping the bottom of the ACC and only Syracuse has a worse in-conference record. After falling to Wake Forest last weekend (also 1-3 in ACC play), it’s really hard to envision a world that Pitt gives Notre Dame any significant problems this Saturday.
Cheers and Go Irish!!