Following wins over USC and then-No. 21 Temple, the fifth-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7-1) visit Heinz Field on Saturday to face the Pittsburgh Panthers (6-2). With only four games remaining on the schedule, Notre Dame is still in contention for a College Football Playoff berth.
Brian Kelly’s squad has sufficiently recovered from their 24-22 loss on the road to Clemson with three straight wins by an average margin of over 10 points. But Notre Dame is hoping to avoid a repeat of 2014, when they lost four of five games in November to miss out on a major bowl bid.
"Their mettle has been tested over the last four weeks. Let's use that to our advantage in the way we play,” Kelly said this week.
DeShone Kizer rushed for 143 yards and threw for 299 against Temple last week, but the sophomore quarterback was intercepted twice, and has six interceptions on the season. With Kizer and running back C.J. Prosise, Kelly will likely run against a Pittsburgh rush defense that allowed 186 yards on 35 carries for an average of 5.0 yards per attempt to North Carolina last week.
The Panthers, who dropped out of the top 25 last week, are seeking to regroup from their 26-19 home loss to the Tar Heels. Pittsburgh managed 415 total yards, but were penalized six times for 55 yards, and Dontez Ford’s fumble in Pittsburgh territory would lead to an important Tar Heels touchdown.
Head coach Pat Narduzzi will need fewer mistakes against a Notre Dame squad that often feasts off opponents’ errors. Pittsburgh may need a particularly strong effort from both sides of the ball to upset Notre Dame.
“I don’t know if there’s ever a good time to play Notre Dame,” Narduzzi said. “It’s a good football team. It doesn’t matter if it’s within the first four games or late in the season. It doesn’t matter.”
Quarterback Nathan Peterman hasn’t thrown an interception since Sept. 19, and has completed an impressive 67.9 percent of his passes this season. Freshman running back Quadree Ollison has scored a touchdown in seven of eight games, while rushing for 716 yards, but had just 10 carries against North Carolina for 54 yards.
The two schools last met in Nov. 2013, with Pittsburgh upsetting then-No. 23 Notre Dame, 28-21, at Heinz Field. The last four meetings have been decided by an average of 4.5 points.
Start Time: 12:00 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ABC
Live Stream: ESPN